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Presented to the 

LffiRARIES of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 



by 
Hugh Anson-Cartwright 






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LITERARY LEAVES 



PROSE AND VERSE 



CHIEFLY WRITTEN IN INDIA 



BY 



DAVID LESTER RICHARDSON 



SECOND EDITION 

WITH CONSIDERABLE ADDITIONS 



IN TWO VOLUMES 



VOL. L 



LONDON 
W. H. ALLEN & CO. LEADENHALL STREET 



18 4 0. 






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> AUG 1 2009 




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TO MRS. G. G. RICHARDSON. 

MY DEAR AUNT, 

ON THE FIRST APPEARANCE OP THIS WORK I ADDRESSED IT TO 'ALL MY 
PERSONAL FRIENDS WITHOUT DISTINCTION, BUT I DEDICATE THE PRESENT 
EDITION EXCLUSIVELY TO YOURSELF. I FEEL ASSURED THAT YOUR KIND 
PARTIALITY WILL INDUCE YOU TO ACCEPT THE COMPLIMENT, SUCH AS IT IS, 
IN THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT IS OFFERED— THAT YOU WILL DELIGHT TO 
DISCOVER THE MERITS OF THE BOOK, SHOULD IHERE BE ANY TO REWARD 
THE SEARCH— AND THAT YOU WILL OVERLOOK OR EXTENUATE ITS MANY 
IMPERFECTIONS. 

TO BE ABLE TO FLATTER MYSELF WITH THE HOPE, THAT IN PERUSING 
THE FOLLOWING PAGES IT WILL SEEM TO YOU AS THE RENEWAL OF A PER- 
SONAL INTERCOURSE WITH THE WRITER, AND THAT, WITH ALL YOUR NATURAL 
GIFTS AND ELEGANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS, YOU WILL DERIVE SOME LITTLE 
PLEASURE FROM HIS HUMBLE LABOURS, IS A GRATIFICATION THAT MAY 
EVEN ALLEVIATE THE PAIN OF ABSENCE. 

THE YEARS THAT HAVE PASSED SINCE WE L.'iST MET, AND THE VAST WORLD 
OF WATERS NOW ROLLING EETXVEEN US, HAVE HAD NO OTHER EFFECT UPON 
MY HEART THAN TO MAKE IT YEARN TOWARDS YOU WITH A MORE IMPATIENT 
AND IRREPRESSIBLE AFFECTION. 

BELIEVE ME TO REMAIN, 

WITH THE UTMOST RESPECT AND GRATITUDE, 
YOUR FRIEND AND NEPHEW, 

D. L. RICHARDSON. 

COSSIPORE, JANUARY, 1840. 



PREFACE. 



I PUBLISHED the first edition of this work with fear and 
trembling ; and though I have somewhat less anxiety on 
the present occasion^ I am very far indeed from feeling 
confident of success. The very kind and favorable terms 
in which both the London and Calcutta critics have been 
pleased to speak of my productions^ and the many flatter- 
ing and most valuable letters that I have received from 
my native country from authors of \inqucstionable genius 
and high celebrity^ and to most of whom I am personally a 
stranger, have encouraged me to publish this new edition — 
the first being out of print. I could wish it were consis- 
tent with delicacy to mention the names of those eminent 
individuals who have condescended to recognize the claims 
of an obscure countryman in a foreign land. But though, 
if it were fitting, I should eagerly adduce such authorities in 
my favor, and it might possibly be attributed to vanity or 
presumption, I can safely say that I should be actuated 
by a very different feeling. They who are confident of 
their own merits do not readily admit the necessity of 
such support. Besides, I know how much should be 
deducted from the praises of a private correspondent, even 
when that correspondent is a stranger, and has no other 



VI PREFACE. 

aim or interest to serve than the gratification of a gene- 
rous impulse. But the mere honour of an intellectual 
intercourse with some of the finest spirits of the age is a 
fair subject of self-congratulation ; and after every allow- 
ance shall be made for the warmth of compliment, I cannot 
help feeling that enough of commendation will remain to 
permit of my pleasing myself with the hope, that there 
may be something in the following pages not wholly un- 
worthy of perusal. 

Divided as I am, by such a dreary distance, from all 
personal association with the many gifted natures with 
whom I should be proud and delighted to be more inti- 
mately acquainted, it is a source of unspeakable gratifica- 
tion to me in this state of exile, that I am still able to 
continue even so imperfect an interchange of thovight and 
sentiment as is afforded by epistolary converse ; and 
whatever may be the fate of my humble literaiy efforts, I 
must always rejoice that they have met the indulgent eye 
of the persons to whom I venture to allude — that they have 
increased the list of my friends both here and in England, — 
and that they have whiled away many a weary hour with 
an innocent amusement. 

A comparison of the present edition with the first would 
show that there are numerous additional verses and prose 
papers included in the one that were not inserted in the 
other, and that there is scarcely a single essay which is 
not in some degree enlarged, and I trust improved. 



CONTENTS. VOLUME I. 



PROSE. 



ON LITERARY FAME AND LITERARY PURSUITS, 

ON CHILDREN, ..... 

ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING, 

ON GOING HOME, .... 

ON THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT OF WANT OF MEMORY, 

ON IMITATIVE HARMONY, 

ON THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD, 

ON BYROn's OPINION OF POPE, . . . 

ON MEN OF THE WORLD, . . 

THE ATOSSA BRIBE, .... 

ON PHYSIOGNOMY, .... 

ON EGOTISM, ..... 

MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH, ... 

CHRISTMAS, ..... 

THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS, 

ON CONVERSATION, .... 

SIR EGERTON BRYDGES, .... 

ON THE ART OF READING, 

ON PROSE MEMORANDA FOR POETICAL COMPOSITION, 

ON FRIENDSHIP, .... 

VERSE. 

OCEAN SKETCHES, ..... 

WOMAN A SONNET, .... 

SONNET— ON HEARING CAPTAIN BURNS SING HIS FATHER 

CONSOLATIONS OF EXILE, 

LINES — WRITTEN ON THE RUINS OF RAJHMAHAL, . 

EVENING ON THE GANGES — A SONNET, . 

GRIEF — A SONNET, .... 

EVENING SOUNDS, .... 

LOVE-STANZAS, ..... 

SONNET — TO MY TWIN BOYS, 

SONNET OH ! NOW GLAD NATURE BURSTS UPON MINE EYE ! 

HOME-VISIONS, 

MOODS OF MIND, ..... 

SONNET — TO A FRIEND IN LOVE, 

SONNET — MORNING, .... 

SONNET — WRITTEN IN INDIA, . . . 

LINES — TO A LADY WHO GAVE THE AUTHOR SOME ENGLISH FRUIT, 

MENTAL CHANGES, ...... 



1 

25 

41 

63 

71 

87 

105 

123 

139 

155 

175 

193 

213 

225 

233 

259 

289 

305 

317 

321 



16 

36 
ib. 
37 
39 
40 
ih. 
56 
57 
59 
ib. 
60 
61 
02 
ib. 
07 
68 
69 



CONTENTS. 



SONNETS WRITTEN AT SEA— TINE WEATHEK — CAIM AFTF.n A G 

A MOONLIGHT ASS-IGNATION, 

A lover's THOUGHT, .... 

SONNET — WRITTEN ON THE BANKS OF THE GANGES, 

SONNET — EVENING AT SEA, 

SONNET — TO A CHILD, .... 

A soldier's dream, .... 

SOUNDS AT SEA, .... 

STANZAS TO MY CHILD, 

SONNET — SCENE ON THE GANGES. . 

SONNET— LADT, IF FROM MY YOUNG BUT CLOUDED BROW, ETC 

MORNING, ..... 

KVENING, ..... 

SONNET — TO NETLEY ABBEY, 

SONNET — SUNSET, .... 

TWO LANDSCAPES — ENGLISH AND INDIAN, 

STANZAS TO A FEMALE FRIEND, . 

THE DAY OF LIFE, .... 

STANZAS — OH ! VISIT NOT, ETC. 

BIRTH-DAY STANZAS TO MY CHILD, 

THE FATE OF THE BRAVE, 

A DULL CALM, .... 

FAME AND LOVE, .... 

DAWN, ..... 

LIFE — ALAS ! WHAT MYSTIC CHANGES MARK, ETC 
AN INDIAN DAY, . , . . 

EVENING CLOUDS [a FRAGMENT], . . 

RKTROSPECTIONS, .... 

SONNET — TO ENGLAND, .... 

SONNET— FREEDOM, .... 

SONNET — YOUTH, ....... 

SONNET — OUR PATHS ARE DESOLATE AND FAR APART, 
SONNl.TS— TO DEATH, ...... 

SONG — THE SUN IS UP, ETC. ..... 

THE SEASONS OF LIFE, ...... 

SONNET, ....... 

LINES TO A LADY SINGING, . .... 

THE VOICE OF LOVE, ...... 

LONDON IN THE MORNING, ..... 

VIEW OF CALCUTTA, ..... 

STANZAS, ON THE DEATH OF A GENERAL OFFICER IN INDIA, 
SONNET — THE SUTTEE, ..... 

STANZAS, ....... 

SONNET — SPRING, ...... 

SONNET TO HEALTH, ...... 

STANZAS, ....... 

STANZAS TO , [ON THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE,] . 

LINES WRITTEN IN A LADY's ALBUM, 



ON LITERARY FAME AND LITERARY PURSUITS. 



There is nothing more captivating than Uterary fame ; and 
there are few men, who could resist its fascination if they 
thought it within their reach. It inflames the heart with a deh- 
cious poison. It excites a feverish thirst of praise that grows 
with what it feeds on, and too often destrovs that healthy and 
tranquil tone of mind which is essential to genuine happi- 
ness. Of all human glory, it is the least allied to "a sober 
certainty" of enjoyment. It is generally attended with wild 
inquietudes, and a morbid sensibility to the strokes of fate and 
the mutabilities of opinion. The mariner, who trusts his life and 
fortunes to the treacherous ocean, regards not the varying winds 
of heaven with an anxiety so intense, as that Avith which the poet 
listens to the fickle voice of popular applause. The fame of the 
warrior occasions a comparatively temperate excitement. His 
exertions are chiefly physical ; his achievements are palpable and 
defined ; his honours are certain and immediate. All classes of 
men may judge with accuracy and precision of strength and 
courage, of victory or defeat. A gallant action is as warmly 
applauded and as fully appreciated by the artisan as by the sol- 
dier. Even the reputation of the statesman, though accompa- 
nied with greater care and perplexity of mind than the triumphs 
of the hero, is more open to general comprehension, and is less 

B 



ON LITKRARY FAME 



connected with the profound and subtle workings of the soul 
than the glorv of the poet. The claims of literary genius 
are so shadowv and equivocal, so reluctantly acknowledged by 
those best able to decide upon their truth, and so exposed 
to the misapprehensions of ignorance, and the wilful injustice 
of jealousy or caprice, that, as Pope feelingly observes, " the 
life of a wit is a warfare upon earth." To add to the bitter- 
ness of his misfortunes, the man of letters is of all men 
the least capable of battling with the world, and of supporting 
his influence by extraneous means. If his intellectual preten- 
sions be disputed, he is helpless and forlorn. He ventures his 
whole cargo of earthly hopes in the frail bark of fame, and a 
wreck ruins him for ever. His habits of mind are incapable of 
change, and render him unfit for a new pursuit. Even when he 
is most successful, the public taste is so capricious and uncertain 
that he cannot, like the miser, count and hoard his acquisitions. 
No man can calculate the precise extent of his reputation. He 
cannot enter it into a ledger, and exult in his daily gains. The 
opinions of mankind are more variable and less easily understood 
than the state of trade. The pilgrim to Fame's distant temple 
pursues a doubtful path, and is "now in glimmer and now in 
gloom." He is like one who struggles through subterranean 
passages, and catches but occasional glimpses of the external 
light. Even when he gains the end of a perplexing path, and 
emerges into the full blaze of day, though dazzled for a while 
wnth excess of light, the freshness of the gloiy too quickly fades, 
and he pants again for new excitements. He has neither con- 
tentment nor repose. His wishes are boundless ; his cares per- 
petual. He has a craving void in his heart that no glory can 
fill. The attempt to satisfy his desires is hke pouring water into 
a broken vessel. The more he has the more he covets. His 
greatest gains are small in comparison to his hopes, that are like 
hollow things, only swelled the more by every breath of praise. 



AND LITERARY PURSUITS. 3 

To be happy, therefore, he should effect that almost impossible 
triumph — a triumph over his own restless aspirations. " The 
man who would be truly rich," say Seneca, "must not enlarge 
his fortune, but lessen his appetite." 

But even the painful difficulties of the pursuit of fame, and 
the unquenchable thirst for additional glory, are exceeded by 
the cares attending its possession. The fear of losing it, and 
the anxious charge of its preservation, keep the spirits in that 
eternal flutter and agitation, which joined to the effect of impas- 
sioned thought and a sedentary life often wears away the stoutest 
corporeal frame, and induces that pitiable state of nervousness 
and hypochondriasis so common amongst literary men. The 
clay tenement of a fiery soul is speedily destroyed. 

It is unnecessary to explain in this place the reciprocal influ- 
ence of mind and matter ; for that reader must be dull indeed 
who should require an illustration of a fact so obvious ; and yet 
many students of medicine are apt to overlook it in their prac- 
tice, while they readily assent to it as a theory. M. Tissot, the 
celebrated French physician, (the friend of Zimmermann,) has 
left a work on the diseases of literary men of so philosophical 
and interesting a nature that it is surprising it should be so little 
known. An EngUsh translation was indeed published, many 
years ago, but it was never a popular work, and is now, I 
believe, extremely rare. It abounds with illustrations of the 
terrible effects of too much thought and emotion both on mind 
and body. The toils and anxieties of literature, connected with 
the pecuHar sensibihties of genius, but too often end in insanity 
or death. Sterne has remarked, that " the way to fame, like 
the way to heaven, is through much tribulation." The witty 
Smollet, though a popular writer, has acknowledged the " incre- 
dible labour and chagrin" of authorship. He once fell for half 
a year, into that state of exhaustion which is called a Coma Vigil, 
an affection of the brain produced by too much mental exertion, 
B 2 



4 ox LITERARY FAME 

in which the faculties are in a state of stupor, and all external 
objects are as indistinct as in a dream. We learn from Spence, that 
Pope paid a similar penalty for over study ; until he was at last re- 
stored to health by the advice of Dr. Ratcliffe and the friendly 
attentions of the Abbe Southcot. Many an immortal work that 
is a sourc2 of exquisite enjoyment to mankind has been written 
with the blood of the author — at the expense of his happiness 
and of his life. Even tlie most jocose productions have been 
composed with a wounded spirit. Cowper's humorous ballad of 
Gilpin was written in a state of despondency that bordered upon 
madness. " I wonder," says the poet, in a letter to Mr. New- 
ton, " that a sportive thought should ever knock at the door 
of my intellects, and stiU more that it should gain admittance. 
It is as if Harlequin should intrude himself into the gloomy 
chamber where a corpse is deposited in state." In a late num- 
ber of the Quarterly Review it was justly observed, that " our 
very greatest wits have not been men of a gay and vivacious 
disposition. Of Butler's private history, nothing remains but 
the record of his miseries, and Swdft was never known to smile." 
Lord Byron, who was irritable and unhappy, wrote some of the 
most amusing stanzas of Don Juan in his dreariest moods. In 
fact, the cheerfulness of an author's style is always but a doubtful 
indication of the serenitv of his heart. 

The confessions of genius exhibit such pictures of misery and 
despair, as would appal the most ardent candidate for literacy 
distinction, if it were not for that universal self-delusion which 
leads eveiy man to anticipate some peculiar happiness of fortune, 
that may enable him to grasp the thorn-covered wreath of fame 
without incurring those festering wounds which have gaUed his 
predecessors or his rivals. The profession of authorship is more 
injurious even to corporeal health than the labours of the artisan, 
and is utterly inconsistent with tranquillity of mind. It induces 
an internal fever, and a glorious but fatal delirium. The seduc- 



AND LITERARY PURSUITS. 5 

tive eloquence of Rousseau seems to gush from his heart like 
the sweet gum from a wounded tree. In the highly interesting 
pages of the elder D'Israeli, amongst many other illustrative 
anecdotes of a similar nature, are the following touching examples 
of the effect upon the mind and body of too much literary care and 
labour ; — " Alfieri composed his impassioned works in a paroxysm 
of enthusiasm and with floods of tears. ' When I apply with atten- 
tion,' says Metastasio, ' the nerves of my sensorium are put into 
a violent tumult ; I grow red as a drunkard, and am compelled to 
quit my work.' Beattie dared not correct the proofs of his Essay 
on Truth, because he anticipated a return of that fearful agitation of 
the spirits which he had felt in its composition. Tasso, perplex- 
ed by his own fears and the conflicting criticisms of his friends, 
was anxious to precipitate the pubhcation of his work, that he 
might be ' delivered from his agony.' Dryden, in a letter to 
his bookseller, in alluding to the illness of his son, pathetically 
observes, ' If it please God that / must die of over-study, I can- 
not spend my life better than in preserving his.' Cowley, 'the 
melancholy Cowley,' for thus he styles himself, confesses in one 
of his prefaces, how much he repents the sin of rhyme ; and 
' if I had a son,' says he, ' inclined by nature to the same 
foUy, I beheve I should bind him from it by the strictest conju- 
rations of a paternal blessing.' " 

Few hterary men would wish their children to inherit their 
profession. Lord Byron, in his peculiar half-comic, half-serious 
style, expresses his regret, that he had become an author. " If 
I have a wife," says he, (see his journal of 1S14,) " and that 
wife has a son — by any body — I will bring up mine heir in the 
most anti-poetical way — make him a lawyer, or a pirate, or — any 
thing. But if he writes too, I shall be sure he is none of mine, 
and cut him off with a Bank token." The writer of this article 
was once with William Hazlitt, when he received a letter from his 
son ; — I inquired if he would wish him to follow in his father's 



6 ON LITERARY FAMK 

steps — " Oh! God forbid it!" was the quick and passionate 
reply. In a note to one of his E??ays, he bitterly exclaims, " I am 
sick of this trade of authorship." Dr. Johnson, in the midst of 
all his fame, felt the miseries of a literary life, and sighed for the 
consolations of private friendship. While his name and his 
productions were the topics of general conversation, he shuddered 
at his " gloom of sohtude," and in writing to Mrs. Thrale, he 
makes a touching appeal to her sympathy and tenderness : " I 
want every comfort : my life is very solitary and very cheerless. 
Let me know that I have yet a fi-iend — let us be kind to one 
another." There is a querulous melancholy in the prefaces of 
Wordsworth that shews too clearly the state of his heart. The 
greatest of living poets has found that the wasps of criticism can 
destroy his repose, and that the neglect or ridicule even of the 
vulgar crowd is not always to be borne with a magnanimous 
indifference. 

Literary pursuits and literary distinctions are often fatal to 
domestic pleasures and attachments. They render men less 
capable of entering cordially into those amusements that interest 
the mass of their fellow creatures, and often excite in their 
associates a bitter jealousy and an uneasy sense of inferiority. 
Some in the author see only the man, and wonder at the admira- 
tion of the world ; while others in the man see only the author, 
and cease to regard him as a social being of the same nature with 
themselves. An authors station in society is always ambiguous, 
and liable to endless misapprehensions ; he is like a stranger in a 
foreign land ; he is in the crowd, but not of it. \\'hen his 
claims are too obvious to be disputed, the humble are alarmed at 
that superior intellectual power for which the vain and envious 
hate him. He is neither at his ease himself, nor are those about 
him. The jealous and the curious surround him like enemies and 
spies, and keep him ever on his guard. He can please no one. 
Some who are willing to admire, so raise their expectations of his 



AND LTTERARY PURSUITS. 7 

greatness, that he is sure to disappoint them ; and the more he 
shines, the more he wounds the seh'-love of others. Even the 
most generous admiration is not of long endurance, but soon 
flags without repeated stimulants. If the literary man does not 
excel himself — if everv new work is not superior to the last — his 
friends are disappointed, and his enemies triumphant. Even the 
greatest glory can hardly make a man indifferent to the ceaseless 
hostilities which it so inevitably excites. Envy and detraction are 
fierce and indefatigable adversaries, whom nothing but the down- 
fall of the object of their wrath can entirely appease. The happi- 
ness of an ambitious author is at the mercy of his meanest foes. 
" Oh ! that mine enemy had written a book," is a wish that has 
entered many a malignant bosom. • 

" Who pants for glory finds bat short repose, 
A breath revives him, or a breath o'erihrows." 

A hostile criticism, however false or ignorant, often leaves an 
immedicable wound in the breast of genius. The tender and ima- 
ginative Keats was crushed by the rude hand of Gifford, and 
perished like a flower in a foreign land. The unhappy Kirke 
"White never entirely overcame the shock of an unfavourable 
critique on his first productions. One bitter censure outweighs a 
thousand eulogies. 

What with the jealousy of some men, the ignorance of others, 
and the capriciousness of public opinion, he who rests his whole 
happiness on literary fame must prepare himself for the life 
of a slave or the death of a martyr. And yet with all these 
fearful drawbacks, there is something so inexpressibly charming 
in literary pursuits and the glory that attends them, that no 
man who has once fairly enrolled himself in the fraternity of 
authors, can relinquish liis pen without reluctance and retire into 
ordinary life. After the intense excitement of his peculiar hopes 
and labours, all other objects and employments appear " v/eary. 



ON LITERARY FAME 



stale, flat, and unprofitable." Cowper quotes with a concurrence 
of sentiment the remark of Caraccioli, that " there is something 
bewitching in authorship, and that he who has once written 
will write again." " Who shall say," exclaims Bulwer, in his 
eloquent and interesting " Conversations with an ambitious 
Student in ill health," " whether Rousseau breathing forth his 
reveries, or Byron tracing the pilgiumage of Childe Harold, 
did not more powerfully feel the glory of the task, than the 
sorrow it was to immortalize ? Must they not have been exalted 
with an almost divine gladness, by the beauty of their own ideas, 
the melody of their own murmurs, the wonders of their own art ?" 
Dr. Johnson, with a truth and nature suggested by his own 
experience, attributes a similar feeling to the unhappy Prince 
of Abvssinia. Rasselas uttered his repinings with a plaintive 
voice, "yet with a look that discovered him to feel some com- 
placence in his o\^Ti perspicacity, and to receive some solace of 
the miseries of life, from a consciousness of the delicacy with 
which he felt, and the eloquence with which he bewailed them." 
The clear and permanent impression of the mind on a printed 
page is admirably adapted to the gratification of human pride. 
The author sees the image of his soul to the best advantage, and 
almost wonders at his own perfections. No youthful beauty 
contemplates her mirrored figure with more delight. 

" 'Tis pleasant sure to see one's self in print !" 
He who has once passed into a book, while he exults in his own 
mental portrait, thus fixed as it were beyond the reach of fate, 
luxuriates in the anticipated admiration of the w-oi'ld. The 
printer's types are far more potent than the painter's pencil. The 
former represent the various movements of the mind — the latter 
gives the mere external frame, in one attitude and with one 
expression. There is additiontd pride in the consciousness, that 
in the production of the intellectual image the printer is subser- 
vient to the author's will, while we are necessarily as passive as 



AND LITERARY PURSUITS. 9 

his canvass in the painter's hands. Our features are entirely at 
his mercy. We do not share the merit of his performance, 
though the subject is our own*. 

We need not be surprised that even monai'chs have been 
smitten with hterary ambition, for satiated with the easy and 
vulgar influence of adventitious advantages, they naturally desire 
a species of power more personal and intrinsic, as well as more 
permanent and extensive. A great author has a wider kingdom 
and a longer reign than any sovereign upon earth. Shakespeare 
and Milton would scarcely have exchanged places with the 
proudest worldly potentates. The sun -lit pinnacles of Parnassus 
are more glorious than a gilded chair. 

No man has so exalted an opinion of his own profession as an 
author. " Such a superiority," says Hume, " do the pursuits 
of literature possess over every other occupation, that even he 
who attains but a mediocrity in them, merits the pre-eminence 
above those that excel the most in the common and vulgar 
professions." " An author," says Cowper, " is an important 
character. Whatever his merits may be, the mere circumstance 
of authorship warrants his approach to persons, whom otherwise 

* There is one advantage, however, in painting over printing, which is, 
that the productions of the artist are regarded with a deeper feeling of per- 
sonal interest than those of the author ; because there is no agent, like the 
printer, between the artist and his admirer. The work comes more directly 
from the man of genius himself, and the possession of it is more exclusive. 
There is something inexpressibly moving and deliglitful in the thought that 
the precious treasure is your own, and not the world's, and that it was literally 
and solely the work of the artist's flesiily yet inspired hand. We gaze at and 
touch the identical canvass on which that hand (perhaps long since mingled 
with the dust) once strenuously laboured, while we seem to hold direct commu- 
nion with a being whose earthly glory is almost as imperishable as his spiritual 
existence- We drink in the loveliness of the same scenery that enchanted the 
painter's eye. We share in iiis enjoyment. 

This personal interest in an original painting in some respects resembles, 
though it far exceeds, that which is excited by a celebrated person's autograph. 
But though a great author's manuscript may be highly interesting, it is of 
course in every sense less precious than a noble painting. A handwriting, 
though often in some degree characteristic of tlie writer's mind, can never be 
so essentially connected with genius as the work of a painter. 
c 



10 ON LITERARY FAME 

perhaps he could hardly address without being deemed imper- 
tinent." It is this proud feehng, linked to the hope of fame, 
that makes many an unhappy author persist so passionately in his 
favorite studies, amidst innumerable privations and inquietudes. 
" I know," says Drummond, 

" That all the Muse's heavenly lays 
By toil of spirit are so dearly bought." 

But this difficulty and labour, as he himself confesses, in no 
degree restrained his ardour of composition. It is said that 
Milton would not desist from his literary avocations, though 
warned by his physicians of the certain loss of his sight. He 
preferred his fame to his comfort. 

To create those mighty works that are meant for an immor- 
tality on earth is an object of exultation, compared to which, the 
dignities and triumphs of kings and conquerors would seem 
valueless and vulgar. It is a proud and glorious thing, and may 
elevate our conceptions of the spiritual part of our nature, to 
know that the wealth of even one happy hour's inspiration may 
circulate, like a vein of gold, through the various strata of society, 
and enrich remotest ages ! Even the utter extinction of his mortal 
being is an event of comparative indifference to the impassioned 
poet, who inflames his eager soul with the hope of a never-dying 
name, and the exalting thought, that he may stir the vast sea of 
human hearts, when the crowd of his contemporaries shall be 
utterly forgotten, and his own material frame shall have long 
mouldered in the grave. It is an aspiration of this glorious nature 
that swells the breast of Wordsworth, when he fervently exclaims ; 

" Blessings be with them — and eternal praise, 
Who gave us nobler loves and nobler cares — 
The poets, who on earth have made us heirs, 
Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays ! 
Oh ! might my name be numbered among theirs. 
Then gladly would I end my mortal days !" 



AND LITERARY PURSUITS. 11 

It is a mournful reflection that the poet's laurel is often steeped 
in tears, and that it acquires its richest bloom upon his grave. 
And yet if a great poet could anticipate his future fame, and 
enjoy its full influence and maturity in his life-time, his lot ^Yould 
perhaps be too dazzling for humanity to bear. If the mighty 
Milton could revisit the scenes of his earthly pilgrimage, glori- 
fied by his halo of eternal fame, he would be almost worshipped 
as a god. Mankind would prostrate themselves at his feet. 

There is something so ethereal in the associations connected 
with poetic fame, that a personal intercourse with the bard himself 
is usually attended with surprise and disappointment. We forget 
the vast difi*erence between mind and matter — the jewel and the 
casket. The mortal frame seems to dwarf the spirit. We see 
the soul dimly through so gross a medium. Authors, unlike 
other objects, grow larger as they recede into the distance ; and 
their knowledge of human nature ought to suggest to them the 
imprudence of too near an approach to the common crowd. 
Their books are far more imposing than their persons. Fame is 
a complete abstraction, and even great men should remember the 
vulgar proverb, that ' familiarity breeds contempt.' We ordinarily 
observe, that if an author be more loved in his private circle than 
by the world, he is also less admired. The friends and associates 
of a man of genius are generally amongst the last to discover his 
intellectual greatness, and are usually surprised at his influence 
with the public, which they attribute to some unaccountable 
delusion. In private life the poet is not always poetical, nor the 
philosopher wise. In fact, the intense excitement of their intel- 
lectual habits renders them proportionably nerveless and relaxed 
in their domestic and social hours. They appear to a manifest 
disadvantage in society, because, while others abandon their 
whole being to more transient interests and less refined enjo\'- 
ments, and concentrating such energies as they may possess upon 
the things about them, appear keen and animated, the man of 
c 2 



12 ON LITEKARY FAME 

genius, wearied perhaps by the secret toil of thought, cannot 
wholly disengage his mind from the higher aspirations which 
still haunt and agitate it like a remembered dream. He is 
compelled from the fear of ridicule or misapprehension to check 
the natural workings of his mind, to avoid his dearest and most 
familiar topics, and to assume an air of interest in matters respect- 
ing which he is in realitv indifferent. As in society he acts an 
uncongenial part, he is awkwai'd and restrained, and cannot be 
expected to exhibit the same ease and vivacity as those who riot 
in their own proper element, and give expression to the genuine 
dictates of their hearts. It is only when men of genius meet 
with kindred spirits — when mind meets mind in sparkling collision, 
that their vast superiority to the crowd becomes marked and 
obvious. 

The conversation of literary men, though it may turn on their 
favorite subjects, is not exclusive or professional. It usually in- 
volves the universal interests of humanity ; and all intelligent per- 
sons, of whatever class, who have studied external nature, or the 
human heart, or have indulged in contemplations upon the 
mysteries of our being, may listen to literary men with sym- 
pathy and delight. They are not only accustomed to give a 
higher tone to their conversation, and to choose topics of more 
general interest than are introduced into ordinary society, but 
their habit of composition facilitates the perspicuous arrangement 
and expression of their ideas, and guards them from the ambi- 
guity and the want of method which in the case of less practised 
thinkers often destroy the effect of the most important com- 
munications. In addition to this logical order of ideas and 
transparency of diction, which are characteristic of literary con- 
versation, it is usually impregnated with a spirit and fervour 
that would seem utterly inconsistent with the frigidity of com- 
mon intercourse. They who have once been accustomed to 
" Such celestial colloquies sublime" 



AND LITERARY PURSUITS. 13 

find it impossible to reconcile themselves to the vulgar truisms 
and smooth inanities of fashionable talkers, amongst whom a new- 
thought or a pleasant paradox is as startling as a rocket, and 
interrupts their general harmony and their placid self-satisfac- 
tion. Literary men, therefore, are not fitted for society, nor 
society for them. Both parties are rendered uneasy by the con- 
nection, and the more the former confine themselves to the 
company of their own class, the better for themselves and for 
the world. The disrespect which so often attends the personal 
presence of an author may interfere with the influence of his 
works. His associates rarely look upon his published labours 
with that reverence which they excite in strangers. 

This is the reason why literature is so little regarded in our 
" City of Palaces*." There is no such thing as fame in a small 
community. Men cannot easily imagine that those with whom 
they associate familiarly are much greater than themselves. 
When they see so much in the literary man that is common to 
all, and can only discover his superiority by an effort of abstrac- 
tion, or by a reference to his writings, they soon cease to regard 
him with any peculiar interest. If they admire his works, it is 
usually with astonishment that any thing so remarkable should 
proceed from so ordinary a source ; but generally speaking, as I 
have already observed, the disrespect to his person is transferred 
to his productions. 

In a vast city like that of London, the humblest literary man 
may acquire more real fame, however hmited, than can be obtain- 
ed in Calcutta by the most successful author. In England, when 
a man's productions are once familiar to the public, there is a 
vao'ue and undefinable magic in his name that renders him an 
object of interest to his fellow-men. His person is shrouded in 
impenetrable obscurity, and they only catch his voice from out 

* Calcutta. 



14 ON LITERARY FAME 

the gloom. But in the raetropohs of British India there is no 
pubhc — no mystery — no fame ; — the poet seems as prosaic as the 
coarsest utihtarian, and the man of letters has no more influence 
than the merchant's clerk. 

It is imagined by some, that the lover of fame is so voracious of 
praise, that he is indifferent to its quality. This is not the case. 
The smiles of vulgar patronage, or the blundering eulogies of 
ignorance, are always offensive and disgusting. " I love praise," 
says Cowper in one of his letters, "from the judicious, and those 
who have so much delicacy themselves as not to offend mine." 
The applause of men who are themselves eminent in literature 
often thrills an ambitious author with that inexpressible delight 
which can never be occasioned by the adulation of common minds. 
When Lord Byron's high opinion of Sheridan's powers was com- 
municated to that wild but sensitive genius, he burst into a flood 
of tears. His joy overpowered him, and was far too intense to 
find relief in words*. 

They who analyze their own feelings and the feelings of 
others, soon discover, that with various modifications, that mys- 
terious law of our nature, which urges us to look even beyond 
the grave and anticipate the future, operates alike on all men. 
The love of fame still haunts us to the last. 

" E'en in our ashes live their wonted firesf." 



* See Lord Byron's Journal, published in Moore's Life of the IN'oble Poet. 

t " A power above us hath instincted in the minds of all men an ardent 
appetition of a lasting fame. Desire of glory is the last garment that even wise 
men lay aside." — Feltham's liesolves. 

There is a good passage on this subject in ritzosborne's Letters. " Can it be 
reasonable to extinguish a passion which nature has universally lighted up in 
the human breast, and which we constantly find to burn with most strength 
and brightness in the noblest bosoms? Accordingly Revelation is so far from 
endeavouring to eradicate the seed w^hich nature has thus deeply planted, that 
she rather seems, on the contrary, to cherish and forward its growth. 'i"o be 
exalted with honour, and to be had in eierluitiug remembrance, are in the num- 
ber of those encouragements which the Jewish dispensation offered to the 
virtuous." 



AND LITKRARV PURSUITS. 15 

There is scarcely a being in the world, however humble, who 
does not pant for some kind of notice from his fellow-men ; and 
it is in proportion to the energy of his character and the power of 
his intellect, that a man is disposed to challenge attention by 
means more or less spiritual and refined. Some persons are 
contented with a reputation of which the nature and limits appear 
contemptible and narrow to more ardent minds, that would fain 
extend their influence over distant countries and through succes- 
sive ages. But this thirst for sympathv, and applause, and power 
is so natural to all men, though infinitely varied in its intensity, 
that as utter annihilation is inconceivable by the human mind, 
they project their hopes of fame with their dearest human 
associations beyond their mortal life. It is not only a regard 
for the interest of survivors, which may cause us to be solicitous 
about our after-fame. Though a man were fully aware that he 
should not leave a single friend behind him who would be either 
injured or distressed by a cloud upon his memory, it would 
embitter his last hours if he thought that a stigma would attach 
to his name when he was no longer living to refute it. Yet 
the dull cold ear of death is no more sensible to the voice of cen- 
sure than to the voice of praise. 

This concern for our future reputation seems as instinctive as 
our hopes of a future existence, and a continued consciousness of 
earthly fame is not wholly inconsistent with our notions of happi- 
ness hereafter. A great author may perhaps be permitted, even 
in heaven, to rejoice in that " perpetuity of praise," which, as 
Milton proudly asserts, " God and good men have decreed as the 
reward of those whose published labours have benefitted man- 
kind." He may possibly look back upon this mortal world with 
an affectionate greeting, and cherish a blameless exultation : — 

" Because on earth his name 
In Fame's eternal volume shines for aye !" 



C 16 ] 



OCEAN SKETCHES. 

Written on the voyage to India. 

I. 

[a breeze at mid-day.] 
The distant haze, like clouds of silvery dust. 
Now sparkles in the sun. The freshening breeze 
"Whitens the liquid plain ; and like a steed 
With proud impatience fired, the glorious ship 
Quick bounds exultant, and with rampant prow 
Off flings the ghttering foam. Around her wake, 
A radiant milky way, the sea-birds weave 
Their circling flight, or slowly sweeping wide 
O'er boundless ocean, graze with drooping wing 
The brightly- crested waves. Each sudden surge. 
Up-dashed, appears a momentary tree 
Fringed witli the hoar frost of a vrintry morn ; 
And then, like blossoms from a breeze-stirred bough. 
The light spray strews the deep. 

How fitfully the struggling day-beams pierce 
The veil of heaven ! — On yon far line of light. 
That like a range of breakers streaks the main, 
The ocean swan — the snow-white Albatross, 
Gleams like a dazzling foam-flake in the sun ! — 
Gaze upward — and behold, where parted clouds 
Disclose ethereal depths, its dark-hued mate 
Hangs motionless on arch-resembhng wings. 
As though 'twere painted on the sky's blue vault. 

Sprinkling the air, the speck-like petrels form 
A living shower ! Awhile their pinions gray 



OCEAN SKETCHES. 17 

Mingle scarce-seen among the misty clouds, 
Till suddenly tlieir white breasts catch the light. 
And flash like silver stars ! 
II. 

[a storm AT NIGHT.] 

Yon cloud-arch spreads, — the black waves curl and foam 

Beneath the coming tempest ; — Lo ! 'tis here ! 

The fierce insatiate winds, like demons, howl 

Around the labouring bark. Her snow-white sails. 

Outspread like wings of some gigantic bird 

Struck with dismay, are fluttering in the gale. 

And sound hke far-ofi^ thunder. Now the heart 

Of ocean quails to its profoundest depths ; — 

The dark heavens groan, — the wildly scattered clouds. 

Like routed hosts, ai'e thickly hurrying past 

The dim-discovered stars. Up lofty hills. 

Or down wide-yawning vales, the lone ship drives 

As if to swift destruction. Still she braves. 

Though rudely buffetted by tempest-fiends. 

The elemental war. Ah ! that dread wave. 

As though some huge sea-monster dealt the blow. 

Hath made her start and tremble ! — Yet again. 

For one hushed moment, with recovered power. 

She proudly glides in majesty serene. 

Calm as a silver cloud on summer skies, 

Or yon pale moon amid the strife of heaven ! 

How terrible, yet glorious is the scene ! 

How swells the gazer's heart ! — The mighty main 

Heaves its stupendous mountains to the sky. 

Their sides unruffled by the fretful waves 

Of less terrific seas. The billows form 

Moving Atlantic Alps, whose peaks alone 



18 OCEAN SKETCHES. 

Are shattered by the wind that hurls the foam 
Adown the dreary vales. In wintry realms 
The viewless pinions of the northern breeze, 
Thus shake the snow-wreaths from the hoary heads 
Of everlasting hills ! 

An awful pause ! — 
Again the quick-reviving tempest roars 
With fiercer rage ! — These changes image well 
The sullen calm of comfortless despair. 
The restless tumult of the guilty heart ! 

III. 

[a calm AT MID-DAY.] 

Now in the fervid noon the smooth bright sea 
Heaves slowly, for the wandering winds are dead 
That stirred it into foam. The lonely ship 
Rolls wearily, and idly flap the sails 
Against the creaking mast. The lightest sound 
Is lost not on the ear, and things minute 
Attract the observant eye. 

The scaly tribe. 
Bright-winged, that upward flash from torrid seas. 
Like startled birds, now burst their glassy caves. 
And ghtter in the sun ; while diamond drops 
From off their briny pinions fall like rain, 
And leave a dimpled track. 

The horizon clouds 
Are motionless, and yield fantastic forms 
Of antique towers, vast woods and frozen lakes. 
Huge rampant beasts, and giant phantoms seen 
In wildering visions only. 

High o'er head, 
Dazzling the sight, hangs, quivering like a lark, 
The silver Tropic-bird ; — at length it flits 



OCEAN SKETCHES. 19 

Far in cerulean depths and disappears, 

Save for a moment, when with fitful gleam 

It waves its wings in light. The pale thin moon. 

Her crescent floating on the azure air. 

Shows like a white hark sleeping on the main 

When not a ripple stirs. Yon bright clouds form, 

(Ridged as the ocean sands, with spots of blue, 

Like water left by the receding tide,) 

A fair celestial shore ! — How beautiful ! 

The spirit of eternal peace hath thrown 

A spell upon the scene ! The wide blue floor 

Of the Atlantic world — a sky-girt plain — 

Now looks as never more the Tempest's tread 

Would break its shining surface ; and the ship 

Seems destined ne'er again to brave the gale. 

Anchored for ever on the silent deep I 

IV. 

[sun-rise.] 
The stars have melted in the morning air, — 
The white moon waneth dim. — The glorious sun. 
Slow-rising from the cold cerulean main. 
Now shoots through broken clouds his upward beams. 
That kindle into day. At length his orb. 
Reddening the ocean verge, with sudden blaze 
Awakes a smiling world ; — the dull gray mist 
Is scattered, and the sea-view opens wide ! 

The glassy waves 

Are touched with joy, and dance in sparkling throngs 
Around the gallant bark. The roseate clouds 
Rest on the warm horizon, — like far hills 
Their radiant outlines gleam in yellow light, 
D 2 



20 OCEAN SKETCIIKS. 

And o'er their shadowy range a thin scud floats. 
Like wreaths of smoke from far-off beacon-fires. 

The deep blue vault is streaked with golden bars. 

Like veins in wealthy mines ; and where the rays 

Of Day's refulgent orb are lost in air, 

In small round masses shine the fleecy clouds. 

As bright as sncw-clad bowers when sudden gleams 

Flash on the frozen earth. 

Ascending high 
The gorgeous steps of heaven, the dazzling sun 
Contracts his disk, and rapidly assumes 
A silver radiance — glittering Uke a globe 
Of diamond spars ! 

V. 
[sun-set.] 
Now near the flushed horizon brightly glows 
The red dilated sun. Around his path 
Aerial phantoms float in liquid light. 
And steeped in beauty, momently present 
Fresh forms, and strange varieties of hue. 
As fair and fleeting as our early dreams ! — 
Behold him rest on yon cloud-mountain's peak, — 
Touched with celestial fire, volcano-like. 
The dazzling summit burns ; — eruptive flames 
Of molten gold with ruddy lustre tinge 
The western heavens, and shine with mellowed light 
Through the transparent crests of countless waves ! 

The scene is changed — behind the ethereal mount 
Now fringed with light — the day- god downward speeds 
His unseen way ; — yet where his kindling steps 
^ Lit the blue vault, the radiant trace remains, 



OCEAX SKETCHES. 21 

E'en as the sacred memory of the past 

Illumes life's evening hour ! — Again ! Again ! 

He proudly comes ! and lo ! resplendent sight ! 

Bursts through the cloud-formed hill, whose shattered sides 

Are edged with mimic lightning ! — his red beams 

Concentrating at last in one full blaze. 

Bright as a flaming bark, his fiery form ■ 

Sinks in the cold blue main ! 

The golden clouds 
Fade into gray — the broad cerulean tide 
A darker tint assumes. In restless throngs 
Phosphoric glow-worms deck with living gems 
The twihght wave, as Orient fire-flies gleam 
In dusky groves, — or like reflected stars, 
When evening zephyrs kiss the dimpled face 
Of that far lake whose crystal mirror bears 
An image of my home ! Ah those white walls. 
Now flash their silent beauty on my soul. 
And, like a cheerful sun-burst on my way. 
Revive a transient joy ! 

VI. 
[night.] 
The day-beams slowly fade, and shadowy night. 
Soft as a gradual dream, serenely steals 
Over the watery waste. Like low-breathed strains 
Of distant music on the doubtful ear. 
When solitude and silence reign around. 
The small waves gently murmur. 

Calm and pale — 
A phantom of the sky — the full-orbed moon 
Hath glided into sight. The glimmering stars 
Now pierce the soft obscurity of heaven 
In golden swarms, innumerous and bright 



22 OCEAN SKETCHES. 

As insect-myriads in the sunset air. 

The hreeze is hushed, and yet the tremulous sea. 

As if hy hosts of unseen spirits trod, 

Is broken into ripples, crisp and clear 

As shining fragments of a frozen stream 

Beneath the winter sun. The lunar wake 

Presents to rapt imagination's view 

A pathway to the skies ! 

In such a scene 
Of glory and repose, the rudest breast 
Is pure and passionless, — the holy calm 
Is breathed at once from heaven, and sounds and thoughts 
Of human strife a mockery would seem 
Of Nature's mystic silence. Sacred dreams 
Unutterable, deep, and undefined. 
Now crowd upon the soul, and make us feel 
An intellectual contact with the worlds 
Beyond our mortal vision. 

VII. 

[lights and shadows.] 
Profusely scattered o'er the fields of air. 
Float the thin clouds, whose fleecy outlines dim. 
Fade, like departing dreams, from mortal sight — 
So gradually with heaven's deep blue they blend 
Their paler tints. — 

Now on the vessel's deck. 
Luxuriously reclined in idle ease, 
I mark the varied main. From either side 
I gaze alternate, and strange contrasts find 
Of light and shade. The scene divided seems. 
Sun-ward, the noon-tide rays almost o'erpower 
The ocean's azure hue, like glittering stars 



OCEAN SKETCHES. ~ 23 

Too richlv on some regal garment wrought. — 

I turn from fierce intolerable light. 

And lo ! the darker side a prospect shows. 

On which the dazzled ej'e delights to rest ; 

For not a sun-beam glances on the sea. 

The long blue waves seem, cord-like, twisted round, 

And slide away, as if by viewless hands ' 

Drawn slowly past. At intervals, far off, 

A small and solitary breaker throws 

A snow-wreath on the surface ; and I hear • 

A low crisp sound, as through the glassy plain 

The gallant vessel cuts her glorious way ! 

VIII. 

[sUN-SET CHANGES.] 

Behold that bridge of clouds ! 
Upraised beyond, an air-wrought precipice 
Appears stream-mantled, — kindled vapours form 
The radiant torrent, touched with every tint 
That mingles on the vest of parting day. 
Beneath that shadowy bridge the broad red sun. 
Its outline undefined, continues still 
The same celestial flood, that downward dashed 
Breaks into fiery foam ! 

That scene is o'er — 
The hill, the bridge, the stream have passed away ! 
The sun hath changed its hue, and now presents 
A silvery globe, floating on fervid skies 
That gleam like seas of gold. Its glorious disk 
As if with insect-clouds thin speckled seems, 
Yet glitters on the burning front of heaven. 
Bright as a crystal spar, or quivering wave 
Beneath the grlare of noon ! 



•24 OCEAN SKETCHES. 

IX. 

[sea-foam.] 
The breeze is gentle, yet the gliding ship 
Wins not her tranquil way without a trace. 
But softly stirs the surface of the sea. 
'Tis pleasant now, with vacant mind, to watch 
The light foam at her side. Awhile it seems 
Most like a tattered robe of stainless white. 
Whose rents disclose a verdant vest beneath. 
Then, suddenly, wild Fancy wanders home 
For wintry images of snow-patched plains 
That prove a partial thaw. E'en school-days dear 
Return, if haply on the idle brain 
Remembrance of the pictured map presents 
The world's irregular bounds of land and wave ! 
Nor less beguilement for the lingering hours 
Of life at sea, the backward track may yield. 
How beautiful the far seen wake appears ! 
Resplendent as the comet's fiery tail 
In Heaven's blue realms ! Beneath the proud ship's stern 
A thousand mimic whirlpools chafe and boil, 
"While fitfully up-sent from lucid depths 
Thick throngs of silver bubbles sparkle bright. 
Like diamonds in the pale beam of the moon. 



ON CHILDREN. 



All ! that once more I were a careless child. 

Colerids^e. 
He plays yet like a young prentice the first day, and is not come to 
his task of melancholy. 

Bishop Earle. 



Every thing new or young has a charm for human eyes. The 
rosy hght of dawn — the spring of the year — the haunts of 
our childhood — our earhest companions and our first amusements, 
are connected with associations infinitely more enchantino- than 
all later scenes and objects. It is partly owing to this law 
of our nature, that the sight of children thrills and softens the 
heart in maturer life with such indescribable sensations of 
sadness and delight. They remind us of our sweetest hours, 
revive our most hallowed affections, and bring into our eves 
those tears of luxurious tenderness that are more precious than 
springs in a sandy desert. At the pure smile of childhood the 
baser impulses and more sordid cares of life suddenly betray their 
genuine aspects of deformity, and vanish from the heart. " A 
change comes over the spirit of our dreams." 

All men of sensibility and imagination, occasionally travel back 
through the mist of dreams to the scenes of their own happy 
childhood. The fondly reverted eye is charmed with images of 
peace and beauty. When contrasted with these dehghtful retro- 
spections, how dreary and barren seems our onward path ! Every 
step that we take but increases our distance from the regions of 
enchantment. 'Tis a melancholy journey into unknown lands — 
an eternal exile from the home of innocence and joy. The 
atmosphere of existence thickens as we advance, and all things 
assume a sombre aspect, till at last we reach the dread goal of our 

E 



26 ON CHILDREN. 

earthly pilgrimage, the Poison Tree of death, and are so weary 
and wa\Tvom that we even welcome its horriti silence and its 
hideous shade. 

If men may dare to idolize any sublunary thihg, it is a sinless 
and smiling child. " Suffer," says Jesus Christ, " little children to 
come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of 
heaven." The author of these beautiful words was an infant 
himself, and oh, ineffable glory ! the pure light that encircled the 
child, still shone around the man ! It is a touching, and I hope 
not an irreverent reflection, that he whose manhood surpassed all 
human conceptions — he whom men believe to have been the 
Deity himself — did not, in his earlier years, exhibit to earthly 
eyes more innocence and beauty than are easily conceivable in a 
human child. Could we but preserve our first purity with the 
progress of our intellectual powers, we should indeed be little 
lower than the angels. The description of our first parents in 
Paradise is like a radiant vision, but I cannot help regarding 
it, beautiful as it is, as in some degree deficient in poetical and 
human interest, when I remember that they knew not the charms 
of childhood, but came abruptly, I had almost said unnaturally, 
into mature existence unaccompanied by those earlier associations 
which like the shadows in the golden light of evening, grow more 
and more lovely as our day declines, and reflect their lingering 
hues upon our latest path. Methinks that even Paradise itself 
would have looked more divine, had little human cherubim flitted 
gaily over the green velvet slopes, and passed from flower 
to flower, their light laughs breaking like celestial music on the 
air, and their golden locks glittering in the sun. 

A lovely woman is an object irresistibly enchanting, and the 
austerer grace of manhood fills the soul with a proud sense of the 
majesty of human nature ; but there is something far less earthly 
and more intimately allied to our hoHest imaginings in the 
purity of a child. It satisfies the most delicate fancy and the 



ON CHILDREN'. 27 

severest judgment. Its happy and affectionate feeling's are un- 
checked by one guileful thought, or one cold suspicion. Its little 
beauteous face betrays each emotion of its heart, and is as trans- 
parent as the silvery cloud- veil of a summer sun that shows all the 
light within. It is as fearless and as innocent in its waking hours 
as in its quiet slumbers. It loves every one, and smiles on all ! 

I have sometimes gazed upon a beautiful child with a passion 
only equalled in intensity by that of youthful love. The heart at 
such a time is nearly stifled with a mixed emotion of tenderness, 
admiration and dehght. It almost aches with affection. I can 
fully sympathize in a mother's deep idolatry. I love all lovely 
children ; and have often yearned to imprint a thousand pas- 
sionate kisses upon a stranger's child, though met perhaps but 
for a moment in theatres or in streets, and passing from me, like 
a radiant shadow, to be seen no more. The sudden appearance 
of a child of exti'aordinary beauty comes upon the spirit like a 
flash of light, and often breaks up a train of melancholy thoughts, 
as a sun-burst scatters the mist of morning. 

The changing looks and attitudes of children afford a perpe- 
tual feast to every eye that has a true perception of grace and 
beauty. They surpass the sweetest creations of the poet or the 
painter*. They are prompted by maternal Nature, who keeps an 
incessant watch over her infant favorites, and directs their mi- 
nutest movements, and their most evanescent thoughts. Beneath 
such holy tutorage they can never err. They throw their sleek 
and pliant limbs into every variety of posture, and still preserve 
the true line of beauty, as surely as a ball preserves its round- 
ness. They live in an atmosphere of loveliness, and like moving 
clouds are ever changing their ethereal aspects, and yet always 
catch the hght. Even the moral defects of maturer years are 

* Northcote tells us, that when Sir Joshua Reynolds desired to learn what 
real grace was, he studied it in the natural movements of children. 
E 2 



28 ON CHILDREX. 

often beautiful in childhood, and bear a different character. The 
cunning of the man is innocent archness in the child. Ignorance 
in the one, is a gross and miserable condition ; in the other, it is 
purity and bliss. The imperfections that are ludicrous or offen- 
sive in manhood, in infancy are inexpressibly engaging. Tlie 
stammering of an adult, or his mistakes in acquiring a new lan- 
guage, are unpleasing to the most friendly ear, and even lower 
him in some degree in his own estimation. But the first imper- 
fect sounds and broken words of a child, are as sweet as the 
irregular music of interrupted rivulets. They stir the heart 
like magic, and impel us as it were, in the sudden wantonness of 
affection, to shut the little rosy portals of the cherub's soul with 
a shower of impetuous kisses. The garrulity of age is not like 
the eager prattling of infancy. The child's artless talk can never 
weary us. Our ears are as tireless as his tongue. 

Timidity in manhood is degrading, but in a little child it is in- 
teresting and lovely, whether he flies from the object of alarm 
like a startled fawn, or nestles closer in his mother's lap. The 
coquetry of a woman is vanity and deceit, but in a child it is 
mere playfulness and innocent hilarity. Every thing connected 
with childhood changes its nature. Words of abuse become 
words of endearment. Imp and rogue, when applied to an infant, 
are soft and fond expressions that fall gracefully from the fairest lips. 

The drums and rattles of the child are objects of unalloyed de- 
light, but the playthings of the man are grave and terrible delusions. 
They goad him with secret thorns that rankle in his heart for ever. 
EnW, avarice, and ambition, mingle their poison in his sweetest 
cup. Even his superior knowledge is but a source of evil. It 
surrounds him with temptations, while it throws a shadow upon 
all his hopes, and takes off the bloom from life. It is too little 
for his mind, and too much for his heart. 

The child, on the other hand, revels in his happy consciousness 
of present good, and foresees no future ill. He knows neither 



ON CHILDREN'. 29 

weariness nor discontent. ' Solitude' to him is sometimes ' blithe 
society,' and in the thickest crowds, he is as free and uncon- 
strained as in his loneliest haunts. His ingenuous heart is never 
chilled by the glance of a human eye, nor can he fashion his inno- 
cent features into a false expression. His own eye is as lucid as 
the breeze-bared heavens. If he reads no ' sermons in stones,' 
he sees ' good in ev^ery thing.' He has universal faith. He dis- 
covers nothing evil, and sees none but friends. He gives up 
his whole being to gentle affections, and a sense of unequivocal 
enjoyment. He is not what cold age would make him, 
" nothing, if not critical." To him the rise of the green curtain 
at the theatre reveals a real world. He has ever a tear for the 
distresses of the heroine, and breathes harder as he gazes, with 
all his soul in his eyes, on the hero's adventurous exploits. The 
tricks and conundrums of the clown are never flat, or stale, or 
unprofitable to him, and he fitly testifies to their merit, when 
holding his lovely head aside (his cheek as round and blooming 
as a sun-kissed peach,) he claps his little palms together in an 
ecstacy of admiration, and then turns to the maternal face, as if 
assured of her hearty sympathy in his delight. 

It is a sweet employment to watch the first gUmmering of 
the human mind, and to greet the first signs of joy that give life 
and animation to the passive beauty of an infant's face, like the 
earliest streaks of sunshine upon opening flowers. But alas ! 
this pleasure is too often interrupted by the sad reflection, that 
the bright dawn of existence is succeeded by a comparatively 
clouded noon, and an almost starless night. Each year of our 
life is a step lower on the radiant ladder that leads to heaven, 
and when we at last descend into the horrible vault of death, 
our best hope is that we may rise again to a state resembling the 
happy purity of our childhood. 

What a holy thing is maternal love ! Even its errors reflect 
honour upon human nature. The mother sees her own offspring 



30 ox CHILDREN. 

through a sweet and pecuHar medium, and traces a thousand 
charms that are undiscovered by less partial eyes, while she is 
bhnd to those defects that are palpable to others. The loved are 
ever lovely. So beautifully does true affection thus qualify every 
object to our desires ! 

There is a divine contagion in all beauteous things. We 
alternately colour objects with our own fancies and affections, or 
receive from them a kindred hue. 

" Like the sweet South, 

That breathes upon a bank of violets, 

Stealing and giving odour." 

This principle pervades all nature, physical and moral. Let 
those who would trace an expression of serenity and tenderness 
on a human face, watch a person of sensibility, as he gazes upon 
a painting by Claude or Raphael. In contemplating a fine 
picture, we drink in its spirit through our eyes. If a lovely 
woman would increase her charms, let her gaze long and ardently 
on all beauteous images. Let her not indulge those passions 
which deform the features, but cultivate, on the contran,^ every 
soft affection. It will soon become an easy task, for one good 
feehng suggests and supports another. We insensibly and invo- 
luntarily adapt our aspect to our emotions, and long habits of 
thought and feehng leave a permanent impression on the counte- 
nance. Everv one beheves thus far in physiognomy, and acts 
more or less decidedly upon his behef. But even the effect upon 
the features of a transient emotion is truly wonderful. A fierce 
man often looks beautifully tender and serene when either caressing 
or caressed, and deceives us like the ocean in a calm, which at 
times seems " the gentlest of all gentle things." 

Who can wonder at the intensity of a mother's love, when even 
strangers hardened by a struggle with the world are often affected 
by the engaging ways of children ? There is not a more interest- 
inff sight in nature than the sudden smile which they sometimes 



ON CHILDREN. 31 

call up in a countenance rendered habitually grave by the cares of 
business or ambition. I remember entering a well-known mer- 
cantile house in London, just as some unfavorable intelligence had 
been received. The head of the firm, with his hard but honest 
features, looked at once stern and anxious, A small hand twitch- 
ed his coat behind. He turned slowly round, with a sullen and 
almost a savage brow. His eye fell upon the prettiest little 
human face that ever gleamed upon the earth. But the child's 
merry laughter was scarcely more delightful than the bland and 
beautiful smile that kindled on the merchant's care-worn cheek. 
His aspect underwent such an instantaneous and entire change, 
that he looked as if he had changed his nature also. Had a painter 
stamped his portrait on the canvass at that happy moment, it would 
have presented an exquisite illustration of amenity and love. Few, 
however, of his mercantile friends, would have recognized the man 
of business. He was single and childless ; but the fondest parent 
could not have greeted his own offspring with a sweeter welcome. 
I have in some moods preferred the paintings of our own Gains- 
borough to those of Claude, — and for this single reason, that the 
former gives a peculiar and more touching interest to his land- 
scapes by the introduction of sweet groups of children. These 
lovely little figures ai-e moreover so thoroughly English, and have 
such an out-of-door's air, and seem so much a part of external 
nature, that an Englishman who is a lover of rural scenery, can 
hardly fail to be enchanted with the style of his celebrated coun- 
tryman. His children have not been dandled in courts or draw- 
ing-rooms, nor tutored by fiddling and caper-cutting dancing 
masters. They have a natural grace about them that is always 
charming to an unsophisticated eye. They spring up into life and 
beauty like the flowers around them, that are the more lovely the 
less they are meddled with by an ambitious taste. They are 

The sweetest things that ever grew 

Beside a human door ! 



ox CHILDREN. 



When I revisited my dear native country, after an absence of 
many weary years, and a long dull voyage, my heart was filled 
with unutterable dehght and admiration. The land seemed a per- 
fect paradise. It was in the spring of the year. The blue vault 
of heaven, over which were scattered a few silver clouds — the 
clear atmosphere — the balmy vernal breeze — the quiet and pictur- 
esque cattle, browsing on luxuriant verdure, or standing knee- 
deep in a crystal lake — the blue hills sprinkled with snow-white 
sheep and sometimes partially shadowed by a wandering cloud — 
the meadows glowing with golden buttercups and bedropped with 
daisies — the trim hedges of crisp and sparkling holly — the sound 
of near but unseen rivulets, and the songs of foliage-hidden birds 
— the white cottages almost buried amidst trees, like happy human 
nests — the ivy-covered church, with its old grey spire ' pointing 
up to heaven,' and its gilded vane gleaming in the light — the 
sturdy peasants with their instruments of healthy toil — the white- 
capped matrons bleaching their newly-washed garments in the sun, 
and throwing them like snow-patches on green slopes or glossy 
garden shrubs — the sun-browned village girls, resting idly on 
their round elbows at small open casements, their faces in sweet 
keeping with the trellised flowers ; — all formed a combination of 
enchantments that would mock the happiest imitative efforts of 
human art. But though the bare enumeration of the details of 
this English picture, wiU perhaps awaken many dear recollections 
in the reader's mind, I have omitted by far the most interesting 
feature of the whole scene — the rosy children loitering about the 
cottage gates, or tiimbling gaily on the warm grass ! 

When the cottager of England ventures to link himself for life 
to the object of his honest afl^ections, and anticipates without dis- 
may, ' the ruddy family around,' he is rebuked by the Pohtical 
Economists for what they consider his culpable imprudence. These 
unfeeling calculators seem to forget that a poor man is a human 
being. They might almost as well expect him to abstain entirely 



ON CHILDREN. S3 

from the simplest food, (for even that is to him expensive,) as to 
check all those natural yearnings of the heart which are as neces- 
sary to the enjoyment of existence as any purely physical gratifi- 
cation. They forget too, how the thought of his wife and children 
nerves the labourer's arm, and how when the daily task is over he 
is soothed and cheered by their evening welcome. His ' home is 
home, however homely.' If the husband and the father has a 
heavy task, his reward is great. ' The Cottar s Saturday Night's' 
enjoyments ai'e cheaply purchased by a week of labour. Children 
are not less precious to the English peasant than they were to the 
Roman matron. They are alike ' the jeivels' of the high-born and 
the humble. 

But even in a political point of view, marriage is commendable, 
for it puts a man in the way of becoming a quiet, a useful, and an 
industrious citizen. They who marry, says Bishop Atterbuiy, give 
hostages to the public that they wiU not attempt the ruin of society 
or disturb its peace. The American Franldin, who can hardly be 
suspected of a romantic enthusiasm or a want of prudence, ex- 
presses his disapproval of the unnatural state of celibacy for life, 
and maintains that it makes a man of less value than he ought 
to be. In a moral sense, marriage is especially advantageous. 
' Certainly,' says Lord Bacon, ' wife and children are a kind of 
discipline of humanity ; and single men, though they may be 
many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, 
yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hard-hearted, 
(good to make severe inquisitors,) because their tenderness is not 
so often called upon.' 

' The best thing I can wish you,' said Sir Walter Scott to Wash- 
ington Irving, ' is that when you return to your own country you 
may get married, and have a family of young bairns about you. 
If you are happy, there they are to share your happiness ; and if 
you are otherwise — there they are to comfort you.' 

No parent can be wholly wretched, let his fate be what it may. 



34 ON CHILDREN. 

if his children are about him, with their cheeks tinged with health. 
It is sweet to be suiTounded by those whom we dearly love, and 
who love us in return beyond all the world. There is no music 
so delightful as the sound of a child's affectionate voice — and no 
sight so cheering as its little happy face. But alas ! in this com- 
fortless and uncongenial clime*, the forlorn English exile must too 
generally forego these domestic pleasures. It is indeed a terrible 
deprivation. This is the unkindest cut of all. It is the stroke 
that goes most directly to the heart. 

It is not the mere absence alone that constitutes the bitter 
trial, but a consciousness of the vast intervening distance. The 
parent and the child are divided from each other by a world of 
waters. They live in different spheres. The death of a child 
would scarcely seem a heavier doom than such a separation. In 
the one case there is an end of all doubt, suspense and fear ; but in 
the other there are feverish hopes, and hideous apprehensions. 
The mother dreams incessantly of her distant child, for whom she 
anticipates every ill that flesh is heir to. If sometimes in a hap- 
pier moment she soothes her soul with brighter fancies, and sees 
her dear offspring wandering in careless happiness about the same 
green spots that are hallowed by her own earliest associations, the 
delight is neither lasting nor unalloyed. 

" Oh ! there is e'en a happiness that makes the heart afraid." 

This sweet picture of the imagination is soon contrasted with 
the drear reality of her own position, and the possible difference of 
her child's actual fate, from that presented by her flattering 
dreams. The re-action of the mind is fearful. ' Tliat way mad- 
ness lies.' A state of exile is every way unnatural, and breaks 
humanity's divinest Unks. The spirit of domestic happiness rare- 
ly wanders far from her native hearth. 



India. 



ON CHILDREN, 35 

The generous and chivalric protection which men 1 estow upon 
the feebler but fairer sex, is allied in some degree to the feeling 
•which we cherish towards a child. The graceful and trusting 
helplessness of both is flattering to our pride, and is an appeal to 
our love that is utterly irresistible. He who has a large family of 
children, is necessarily conscious of an agreeable self-importance. 
If he has the means of supporting them, they cannot be too 
numerous. His children are so many re-creations of himself. 
They are ties that must bind his affections to the world, and yet 
solace him in his latest hour, for a man cannot wholly die while 
his children live. He has spread out his existence into different 
channels. When he looks upon his little divided lives, he feels 
not the effect of age so palpably as he who is solitary and child- 
less. He beholds in them the ' lovely April of his prime.' 

* This is to be new made when he is old, 
And see his blood warm when he feels it cold.' 

When the wedded lose a partner, the dead parent is stiU pre- 
sent in the child. It is a living miniature of the departed. It is 
pleasant, when we become conscious of the defiling influence of 
the world, and feel the cold blasts of care, to see ourselves 
reflected in a fairer form in the bright faces of our children. 
They suggest the purest and sweetest thoughts. They are beau- 
tiful in themselves, and like the fresh buds of spring are full of 
precious promise of blossoms and of shelter. He whose evening 
of life is cherished and adorned by a lovely cluster of kindred 
faces, may well exult in his latter state, whatever may have been 
the trials and deprivations of his earlier hours. 



V 2 



[ 3G ] 

WOMAN. 
The day-god sitting on his western throne 
With all his ' gorgeous company of clouds' — 
The gentle moon that meekly disenshrouds 
Her beauty when the solar glare is gone — 
The myriad eyes of night — the pleasant tone 
Of truant rills when o'er the pebbled ground 
Their silver voices tremble — the calm sound 
Of rustling leaves in noon-tide forests lone — 
The cheerful song of birds — the hum of bees — 
The zephyrs' dance that like the footing fine 
Of moonlight fays scarce prints the glassy seas, — 
Are all enchantments ! But Oh, what are these 
When music, poetry, and love combine 
In Woman's voice and lineaments divine ! 



SONNET. 

ON HEARING CAPTAIN JAMES GLENCAIRN BURNS SING (iN INDIA) 

HIS father's songs. 
How dream-hke is the sound of native song 
Heard on a foreign shore ! The wanderer's ear 
Drinks wild enchantment, — swiftly fade the drear 
And cold realities that round him throng, 
While in the sweet delirium, deep and strong. 
The past is present and the distant near ! 
Such sound is sacred ever, — doubly dear 
When heard by patriot exiles parted long 
From all that love hath hallowed. But a spell 
Ev'n yet more holy breathes in every note 
Now trembling on my heart. A proud Son sings 
The lay o/" Burns ! Oh ! what imaginings 
Awake, as o'er a foreign region float 
These filial echoes of the father's shell ! 
Calcutta, August 7, 1833. 



[ 37 ] 

CONSOLATIONS OF EXILE. 

[or an exile's address to his distant children.] 

I. 

O'er the vast realm of tempest-troubled Ocean — 

O'er the parched lands that vainly thirst for showers — 
Through the long; night — or when nor sound nor motion 

Stirs in the noon of day the sultry bowers — 
Not all un'companied by pleasant dreams 

My weary spirit panteth on the way ; 
StiU on mine inward sight the subtle gleams 

That mock the fleshly vision brightly play. 
Oh ! the heart's links nor time nor change may sever, 

Nor Fate's destructive hand, if life remain ; 
O'er hill, and vale, and plain, and sea, and river, 

The wanderer draws the inseparable chain ! 



Fair children ! still, like phantoms of delight. 

Ye haunt my soul on this strange distant shore, 
As the same stars shine through the tropic night 

That charmed me at my own sweet cottage door. 
Though I have left ye long, I love not less ; 

Though ye are far away, I watch ye still ; 
Though I can ne'er embrace ye, I may bless. 

And e'en though absent, guard ye from each ill ! 
Still the full interchange of soul is ours, 

A silent converse o'er the waters wide. 
And Fancy's spell can speed the lingering hours. 

And fill the space that yearning hearts divide. 



38 COXSOLATIONS OF EXILE. 

III. 

And not alone the written symbols show 

Your spirits' sacred stores of love and truth, 
Art's glorious magic bids the canvass glow 

With all your grace and loveliness and youth ; 
The fairy forms that in my native land 

Oft filled my fond heart with a parent's pride, 
Are gathered near me on this foreign strand. 

And smilingly, in these strange halls, reside ; 
And almost I forget an exile's doom. 

For while your filial eyes around me gleam. 
Each scene and object breathes an air of home, 

And time and distance vanish like a dream ! 

IV. 

Oh ! when sweet Memory's radiant calm comes o'er 

The weary soul, as moonlight gUmmerings fall 
O'er the hushed ocean, forms beloved of yore 

And joys long fled, her whispers soft recall ; 
At such an hour I live and smile again. 

As light of heart as in that golden time 
When, as a child, I trod the vernal plain. 

Nor knew the shadow of a care or crime. 
Nor dream of death, nor weariness of life. 

Nor freezing apathy, nor fierce desire. 
Then chilled a thought with unborn rapture rife. 

Or seared my breast with wild ambition's fire. 

V. 

From many a fruit and flower the hand of Time 

Hath brushed the bloom and beauty ; yet mine eye. 

Though Life's sweet summer waneth, and my prime 
Of health and hope is past, can oft espy 

Amid the fading wildemese around 

Such lingering hues as Eden's holy bowers 



LINES. 39 

In earth's first radiance wore, and only found 
"Where not a cloud of sullen sadness lours. 

Oh ! how the pride and glory of this world 
May pass unmirrored o'er the darkened mind, 

Like gilded banners o'er the grave unfurled. 
Or Beauty's witcheries flashed upon the blind. 



VI. 



Though this frail form hath felt the shafts of pain. 

Though my soul sickens for her native sky, 
In visionary hours my thoughts regain 

Their early freshness, and soon check the sigh 
That sometimes from mine inmost heart would swell 

And mar a happier mood. Oh ! then how sweet. 
Dear Boys ! upon remembered bhss to dwell. 

And here your pictured hneaments to greet ! 
'Till Fancy, bright Enchantress, shifts the scene 

To British ground, and musical as rills. 
Ye laugh and loiter in the meadows green. 

Or chmb with joyous shouts the sunny hills ! 
Calcutta, September 4, 1834. 



LINES 

WRITTEN ON THE RUINS OF RAJHMAHAL. 

Hail, stranger, hail ! whose eye shall here survey 
The path of Time, where ruin marks his way. 
When wildly moans the solemn midnight bird. 
And the gaunt jackal's piercing cry is heard ; 
If thine the soul with sacred ardour fraught. 
Rapt in the poet's dream, or sage's thought. 
To thee, these mouldering walls a voice shall raise. 
And sadly tell how earthly pride decays ; 
How human hopes, like human works, depart. 
And leave behind the ruins of the heart ! 



[ 40 ] 
SONNET. 

EVENING, ON THE BANKS OF THE GANGES. 

I WANDERED thouglitfuUy bv Gunga's shore. 

While the broad sun upon the slumbering wave 

Its last faint flush of golden radiance gave. 

And tinged with tenderest hues some ruins hoar. 

Methinks this earth had never known before 

A calm so deep — 'twas silent as the grave. 

The smallest bird its light wing could not lave 

In the smooth flood, nor from the green-wood soar, 

If but the tiniest branch its pinions stirred 

Or shook the dew-drops from the leaves, unheard. 

Like pictured shadows 'gainst the western beam 

The dark boats slept, while each lone helmsman stood 

Still as a statue ! — the strange quietude 

Enthralled my soul like some mysterious dream ! 



SONNET— GRIEF. 
Impassioned grief is dumb — no sign or sound 
Can form its faithful language. Sorrow's dart 
In fevered breasts awakes an inward smart 
That friendship may not share. Oh ! curse profound. 
To bear each maddening passion darkly bound 
Within that fearful cell, the shrouded heart ! 
The quivering lip, the quick convulsive start. 
But feebly tell the strife. The crowd around 
When sinks the strong man 'neath the suUen stream 
Thus see but bubbles rise, — these ill reveal 
Tlie struggler's pangs ! When mourners pant and teem 
With secret thought, and voiceless anguish feel. 
The world's calm brow — the charms of nature seem 
To mock the smothered soul's unheard appeal! 



C 41 ] 
ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 



When Apelles was reproached with the paucity of his productions, and the 
incessant attention with which he re-touched his pieces, he condescended to 
make no other answer than tiiat he painted tor perpetuity. 

The Rambler. 

Alcestides objecting that Euripides had only in three days composed three 

verses, whereas himselt'had written three hundred : Thou tell'st truth (quoth 

he) ; but here is the difference ; thine shall only be read for three days, 

whereas mine shall continue three ages. 

JVcbsier's Dedication to the Reader of the ' White Devil, or Vittoria 
Corombona.' 



There are some writers who seem to regard mere quickness 
and facility of production as of more importance than the quality 
of the thing produced. They insult the public with a flippant boast 
of the little time which they have thought it necessary to bestow 
upon a work intended for its acceptance, and make that a subject 
of triumph which calls for an apology. If the public were in a 
state of intellectual deprivation, and were too voracious to be 
nice, these rapid writers might be looked upon as benefactors : — 
but the case is precisely the reverse ; the world abounds in 
books, both good and bad. There is at all events no demand for 
a greater number of the latter kind. We can afford to wait for 
the result of an author's best exertions, and are not obliged to 
accept with gratitude the first crude and hurried productions that 
he is disposed to offer*. It is not the task of a day for a man to 
enter into competition with such writers as Shakespeare and 
Milton, or Byron and Wordsworth, or to produce a work of 
whatever kind, which the world would not willingly let die. 
A reader is as httle curious about the number of hours which 



* I hate all those nonsensical stories about Lope de Vega and iiis writing a 
play in a morning before breakfast. He had time enough to do it after. — 
Haslitt. 



42 ox CARK AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 

a poet may have taken to write his verses, as about the number 
of arms or legs of his study chair. The question is, whether the 
verses are good or bad, and not how, when, or where, they were 
composed. Even the age of a writer is a consideration of very 
sHght importance. His years have no inseparable connection 
with his works. The latter stand alone in the world's eye, 
and are judged of by their intrinsic merit, and bv this alone must 
they live or die. There are no works in the language that have 
been long popular merely on account of the precocity of the 
author. The peculiar character and condition of a young poet 
may excite for a while the generous sympathy of the public mind, 
and direct a friendly attention to his productions, as in the case 
of Kirke White and Chatterton ; but this adventitious popularity 
can never last. These two unhappy youths have already lost 
their first bloom of reputation, and we begin to value their 
productions according to their intrinsic worth alone, which, though 
far from being inconsiderable, has been greatly overrated. If 
their writings had been entirely destitute of genuine merit, the 
circumstances with which they were connected would not have 
saved them from an almost instantaneous oblivion. "Who now 
reads Dermody* or Blackett ? Southey's friend Jones, the butler, 

* When only ten years of age, Dermody was accustomed to translate a short 
poem from the Greek or Latin, with the same ease and rapidity, with which a 
maturer genius would write a familiar private letter. Some of these translations 
are preserved in the account of his life, but they form no portion of the perma- 
nent literature of his country. The effusions of facility and precocity may be a 
nine days' wonder, but no more. Dermody was like Master Betty, the actor, 
who was only a surprising boy, and who became but an ordinary man. Untimely 
fruits rarely ripen. Dermody was the son of a respectable schoolmaster, and 
in his ninth year, was actually in the situation of a teacher of Greek and Latin 
in his fatiier's establishment. Yet he lived to the age of twenty-seven, and 
though a prolific writer, left nothing behind him that the world will care to 
preserve. His earliest productions were his best, but even these have very little 
intrinsic merit. Men of true genius have been seldom remarkable in their child- 
hood for any manifest superiority of talent. Great intellectual power is usually 
tardy in its development. There is often a seeming sluggishness or obtuseness 
in the early years of those gifted persons who subsequently tower above their 



ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 43 

was forgotten in a few months, though his verses were edited by 
the Laureate, and praised in the Quarterly Review. A certain 
hterary Cardinal used to boast, that he had written all his works 
with the same pen. If he had been unable to procure another, 
the world might have commended his careful preservation of this 
single instrument of author-craft, and have pitied the unhappy 
printers who had to compose from an unintelligible manuscript ; 
but as this mechanical difficulty was of his own choosing, we only 
smile at such an indication of littleness and obliquity of mind. 
His ingenious saving of quills conferred no interest on his works. 
He, however, who voluntarily writes against time, and fancies 
that there is a prodigious merit in declining to avail himself of a 
few additional hours for consideration and correction, is not a 
whit less absurd and puerile than was the writer who thus volun- 
tarily confined himself for years to the use of a single quiU. 
Such an uncalled-for economy of pens and time is neither useful 
nor commendable, but shows " a most pitiful ambition in the fool 
that uses it." 

Anna Seward had the impudence to talk of translating an Ode 
of Horace while dressing her hair. If her translations had been 
worth a straw, we should have been surprised at her facility ; but 
their real value would have received no additional charm from the 
mode in which they were produced. On the contrary, we should 
have had reason to be dissatisfied with tbem, however good, 
when we came to consider how much better they might have 
been made, if the author had been less presumptuous and more 
careful. Her affectation of facility was disrespectful both to 

fellow men, tliat deceives or puzzles the judgment of their associates. Rousseau, 
in his Emilius, observes that nothing: is more difficult than to distinguish real 
dulness in children, from that apparent and fallacious stupidity, the forerunner 
of great abilities. He reminds us that the younger Cato in his infancy, passed for 
an idiot. He speaks also of a profound reasoner of his own acquaintance, who 
at a pretty advanced age appeared to his family and friends to possess a very 
ordinary capacity. Sheridan, Walter Scott, Byron, and many other men of 
equal eminence, were by no means brilliant in the school-room. 

G 2 



44 ON CAKE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 

Horace and to the public, and her indecent haste or negligence 
was in direct defiance of the advice of Horace himself. The 
author of an impromptu may boast with son>e reason of his 
quickness, but other writers are not timed like race horses. If 
these vain and careless authors wrote with greater elegance and 
effect than modest and careful ones, we might restrain our indig- 
nation at their fopperies ; but it is almost idle to observe that 
true genius is very rarely the accompaniment of self-conceit, and 
that in all human arts the attainment of excellence is the result 
of a happy combination of skill and labour. Extreme facility is, 
generally speaking, an unfavorable indication of the character 
of an author's mind. Rapid writers, like rapid talkers, are far 
more frequently shallow than profound. The tongue, says 
Butler, is like a racehorse, which runs the faster the lesser weight 
it carries. It is the same with the pen. The veins of golden 
thought do not lie upon the surface of the mind. The wealthiest 
men may want ready cash. Some people fall into the egregious 
mistake of supposing that easy writing must be easy reading. 
It is quite the contrary. As Pope says, 

" True ease in writing comes from art, not chance ; 
As those move easiest who have learned to dance*." 

" The best performances," says Melmoth, " have generally 
cost the most labour ; and that ease which is essential to fine 
writing, has seldom been attained without repeated and severe 
corrections. With as much facility as the numbers of Prior seem 



* " When I was looking on Pope's foul copy of the Iliad, and observing how 
very mucli it was corrected and interlined, he said, ' 1 believe you would find, 
upon examination, that those parts which have been the most corrected read 
the easiest.' " — i>peiice's Anecdotes. 

A Mr. Tupper has published a Continuation of Christabel, and has told his 
readers that it was "the pleasant labour of but a very few days." Coleridge 
wrote the first part in 1797, and the second in V600, and did not publish tiieni 
till lbl(j. bee a review of thia Coatinuation iu Ulackwood's Magazine for 
Dec. Ib38. 



ON CAKE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 45 

to have flowed from him, they were the result of much apphca- 
tion. A friend of mine, who undertook to transcribe one of the 
noblest performances of the finest genius that this, or perhaps 
any age can boast, has often assured me that there is not a single 
line, as it is published, which stands in conformity with the 
original manuscript." 

Rousseau has remarked, that with whatever faculties a man 
may be born, the art of writing is of difficult acquisition. Hazlitt 
was so many years before he could give expression to his 
thoughts, that he almost despaired of ever succeeding as an author. 
It is true that he attained great facility before he died. It is thus 
also with the painter. The quick master-touch is only to be 
acquired at the expense of long toil and study. A manual dex- 
terity, however, is almost sure to be attained at last, after a 
certain degree of practice ; but a corresponding ease and celerity 
of execution is not always to be acquired by an author, even in 
a long life of literary labour. Some of the most eloquent writers 
that ever lived, have produced their earliest and latest works with 
the same difficulty and toil. 

" For e'en by genius excellence is Ijouffht 
With length of labour, and a life of thought.'' 

It has been very justlv observed, that nothing is such an obsta- 
cle to the production of excellence as the power of producing 
what is pretty good with ease and rapidity. 

Rousseau has described " the ceaseless inquietude," with 
which he attained the magic and beauty of his style. " His 
existing manuscripts," says D'Israeli, " display more erasui'es 
than Pope's, and show his eagerness to set down his first 
thoughts, and his art to raise them to the impassioned style of 
his imagination*." Dr. Johnson has told us of the " blotted 

* My manuscripts blotted, scratched, inteilined, and scarcely legible, attest 
the trouble they cost me ; nor is tlie:e one of them but I have been obliged to 
transcribe four or five times, before it went to press. — Rouaaau's Confesiions. 



46 ON CARE AND f:ONDEXSATION IN WRITING. 

manuscripts of Milton," and has shown the painful care and 
fastidiousness of Pope (to which D'Israeli alludes) by the pub- 
lication of some of the corrected proofs of the translation of 
Homer. Swift highly appreciated Pope's art of condensation. 

" In Pope I cannot read a line 
But, with a sigli, 1 wish it mine ; 
When he can in one couplet fix 
More sense than 1 could do in six." 

Ugo Foscolo, in his elegant Essay on Petrarch, informs us, that 
if the " manuscripts did not still exist, it would be impossible to 
imagine or believe the unwearied pains this poet has bestow'ed on 
the correction of his verses." " They are curious monuments," 
he adds, " although they afford little aid in exploring by what 
secret workings the long and laborious meditation of Petrarch 
has spread over his poetry all the natural charms of sudden and 
irresistible inspiration." It is said of the celebrated Bembo, that 
he had a desk with forty divisions, through which each of his 
sonnets was passed in due succession, at fixed intervals of time, 
and that at every change of place it received a fresh revisal*. 
Joseph Warton, in his Essay on Pope, quotes the assertion of 
Fenton, that Waller passed the greatest part of a summer in 
composing a poem of ten stanzas. " So that," adds Fenton, 
" however he is generally reputed the parent of those sicanns of 
insect wits, who affect to he thought easy writers, it is evident that 
he bestowed much time and care on his poems before he ventur- 
ed them out of his hands." Warton also mentions, in further 
illustration of his subject, that it is well known that the writings 
of Voiture, of Sarassin, and La Fontaine, cost them much pains, 

* Voltaire, in his Temple of Taste, represents that in the innermost part of the 
sanctuary he saw a small number of truly great mea employed in correcting 
those faulty passages of their works, which would have passed for beauties in 
the productions of writers of inferior genius. 



ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 47 

und were laboured into that facility for which they are so famous, 
with repeated alterations and many erasures. Moliere, is report- 
ed to have passed whole days in fixing upon a proper epithet or 
rhvme, although his verses have the flow and freedom of conver- 
sation. Some of Rochefoucault's maxims received twenty or 
thirty revisions, and the author eagerly sought the advice of his 
friends. Buflbn called genius j)citience. 

It is said that Shakespeare never blotted a line. To this we 
may reply with Ben Jonson, tvoidd that he had blotted a thou- 
sand!* The errors and imperfections that are discoverable even 
in his wondrous pages, are spots on the sun that we often have 
occasion to wish away. Foreigners constantly throw these de- 
fects in the teeth of his national admirers. But Pope, in his 
Preface to Shakespeare, has shown that the great bard did not 
always disdain the task of correction, though he sometimes neg- 
lected it. The Merry Wives of Windsor and the tragedy of Ham' 
let were almost entirely re-written. 

" E'en copious Dryden wanted, or forgot, 
The last and greatest art— the art to blot." 

Dryden sometimes, however, corrected his pieces very carefully, 
when he was not writing hurriedly for bread. He spent a fort- 
night in composing and correcting the Ode on St. Cecilia's Day. 
But what is this, exclaims Dr. Johnson, to the patience and 
diligence of Boileau, whose Equivoque, a poem of only three hun- 

* A portion of the passage in which these expressions occur, may be perti- 
nently repeated in this place. — " I remember," says Ben Jonson, '' the players 
have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writing (what- 
soever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, 
" Would that he had blotted a thousand," which they thought a malevolent 
speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chose that 
circumstance to commend their friend, wherein he most faulted ; and to justify mine 
own candour J for I loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this side 
idolatry, as much as any." 



48 ON (ARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING, 

dred and forty-six lines, took from his life eleven months to write 
it, and three years to revise it ? Ten years elapsed between the 
first brief sketch of Goldsmith's Traveller and its publication, 
during which it was nearly re-written two or three times. In his 
first copy of The Deserted Village the lines were written very wide 
apart to give room for alterations, and we are told by Bishop 
Percy that scarcely a single line in any of Goldsmith's poetical 
works remained as it was originally written. 

The Memoir of Gibbon was composed nine times, and some of 
Pascal's works were corrected and re-written just as frequently. 
Addison would stop the press when almost a whole impression of 
the Spectator was worked ofi^, to insert a new preposition or con- 
junction. Dr. Johnson is said to have corrected and improved 
every new edition of his Rambler. I have read somewhere of a 
poet, who literally died of vexation, in consequence of discovering 
an error in one of his verses, just as he was about to present them 
to his patron. Hazlitt says in his Plain Speaker, that he was 
assured by a person who had the best means of knowing, that the 
proof of Burke's Letter to a noble Lord (" the most rapid, impetu- 
ous, glancing and sportive of all his works") was returned to the 
printing office so completely blotted over with alterations, that the 
compositors refused to correct it as it was, took the whole matter 
to pieces, and re-set the copy. Ariosto is said to have made 
many and great alterations in his immortal poem. Akenside so 
altered and corrected the " Pleasures of Imagination," and yet so 
little satisfied his own judgment, that after it had passed through 
several editions he found it better to re-write it altogether. He 
did not live to finish the new version, but two or three books or 
sections of it are now usually included in his works. It is curious 
to observe his fastidious alterations. His spirited Epistle to Curio 
was first pubhshed in heroic couplets, and afterwards turned into 
an ode in ten-hne stanzas. It is true that these two great changes 
were by no means improvements, but they prove that Akenside 



ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 49 

was not one of those who think labour needless in a man of 
genius. He urged this principle, however, too far. He delayed 
the correction of the warm effusions of his youth until old age 
had chilled his imagination. This was a sad mistake. But what- 
ever may be the disadvantages of over-labour and too great fasti- 
diousness, they are far less dangerous than errors of an opposite 
character. I believe no one has seriously recommended haste 
and negligence of composition. The best critics, on the con- 
trary, have urged the necessity of assiduous care. It is renuirka- 
ble that some of our most voluminous writers have confessed 
the great toil and attention which they bestowed upon their 
works. Cowper, a vigorous, and by some thought a careless 
poet, in one of his delightful letters, observes, that " to touch and 
retouch is, though some writers boast of negligence,* and others 
would be ashamed to show their foul copies, the secret of almost 
all good writing, especially in verse." He adds, " I am never 
weary of it myself." Pope, in the first draught of his preface to 
his poems, had made a similar acknowledgment. "The sense 
of my faults," said he, " first made me correct ; besides that it was 
as pleasant to me to correct as to write." Moore, whose own 
poetry, glowing as it is, bears internal evidence of great care, 
assures us in his Life of Byron, that his Lordship was no excep- 
tion to the general law of nature, that imposes labour as the 
price of perfection. He gives several curious specimens of the 
noble poet's fastidious changes of phrase, and his laborious correc- 
tion of defects. Medwin, in his Life of Shelley, published in the 
Athenaum, tells us that that poet exercised the severest self-criti- 
cism on every thing he wrote, and that his manuscripts, hke 
those of Tasso at Ferrara, were scarcely decypherable. His care, 
however, I should think, was bestowed more on the choice of 
striking and gorgeous expressions than on that finish and conden- 
sation of style which is now so much neglected. He is too 
exuberant, Drummond of Hawthomden beautifully and truly says. 



50 ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 

I know lliat all the Muse's heavenly lays 
W itii toil (tj spirit are so dearly bought. 

In a free translation of Boileau's Art of Poetry, partly by Sir 
Wm. Soame, but chiefly by Dryden, authors are strongly caution- 
ed against too much haste : 

Take time for thinking; never work in haste; 
And value not yourself for writing fast. 

Of labour not afraid : 

A hundred times consider what you've said ; 

Polish, repolish, every colour lay, 

And sometimes add, but oftener take away. 

Horace, who is thought a good authority in such matters, not 
only advises a poet to keep his work by him for nine years, but 
particularly insists on the absolute necessity of frequent correction. 
Beattie confesses in a letter to Sir William Forbes that he thinks 
it right to let his pieces lie by him for some time, because he was 
a much more impartial judge of such of his works as he had almost 
forgotten, than of such as were fresh in his memory. Pope is 
reported by Richardson, the painter, to have remarked that in 
Garth's Dispensary " there was scarcely one of the alterations, in- 
numerable as they were, in every new edition, that was not for the 
better." By Thomson's successive corrections in the Seasons, 
Johnson seems to think they lost something of their raciness ; but 
Mitford, in his elegant edition of Gray, informs us that he possesses 
an interhned copy that belonged to Thomson, and which contained 
corrections in the author's own handwriting, that were very 
decided improvements. Pope is said to have suggested some of 
Thomson's alterations. The epithets in the first edition of the 
Seasons were, it is said, too numerous and often merely expletive, 
" Our own times," says Moore, " have witnessed more than 
one extraordinary intellect, whose depth has not prevented their 
treasures from lying ever ready within reach. But the records of 



ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 51 

Immortality furnish few such instances ; and all we know of the 
works that she has hitherto marked with her seal, sufficiently 
authorize the position, — that nothing great and durable has ever 
been produced with ease, and that labour is the parent of all the 
lasting wonders of this world, whether in verse or stone, whether 
poetry or pyramids." Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, tells us that 
even the fluent Scott used often to correct very carefully. The 
Shepherd had seen several of the poet's manuscripts that had 
numerous corrections and additions on the alternate white page. 

When a man feels that he is writing for posterity, and that the 
propriety of almost every separate thought and expression will be 
canvassed and criticised throughout succeeding ages, it is no 
wonder that he should be scrupulous and careful. Those who 
merely write on some subject of the day, or for newspapers and 
otlier ephemeral publications, have neither time nor occasion for 
such severity of toil ; their articles are usually read as hurriedly 
and as carelessly as they are written. 

This is the golden age of periodicals, and though I should be 
the last to dispute the numerous and great advantages of this 
species of publication, I confess that I think it has an injurious 
effect on some of the higher branches of our literature. The 
genius that should be devoted to works of permanent im- 
portance is now often frittered away in divided and hasty con- 
tributions to miscellanies of temporary interest. As rapidity and 
punctuality are great recommendations in a contributor, — as the 
scale of remuneration is regulated more by the quantity than the 
quality of their articles, — and as they are generally published 
without a genuine signature, and therefore do not involve the repu- 
tation of the writer, it is not surprising that terseness, or polish, 
or condensation of style is never looked for, and rarely met with, 
in the pages of even the most respectable of our literary periodi- 
cals. They exhibit, on the contrary, a vicious redundance of 
phraseology, and a reckless disdain of all those gentler or severer 
H 2 



52 ON CARE AND COXDKNSATION IN WRITING. 

charms which have cast such an air of immortahty about our best 
Enghsh Classics. 

The great majority of our prose fictions are so melodramatic 
and over- wrought, that they have few attractions for a reader of 
true taste. They indicate, however, the lethargic and unhealthy 
condition of the public mind, which requires such coarse and 
strong excitement that the productions which enchanted it half a 
century ago are now regarded as tame and spiritless. If such a 
sweet little cabinet picture as the Vicar of Wakefield (so exqui- 
sitely finished — so full of character — so tlioroughly English) were 
now published, for the first time, it would probably meet with the 
most contemptuous neglect. Its size alone would be a bar to its 
popularity. Literature has become a matter of measurement. 
Every prose fiction is expected to be a work in three volumes, 
post octavo. The publisher gives an order to one of his literary 
tradesmen to send him by a given time a novel of the fashionable 
size. He knows that if it exceeded or fell short of the prescribed 
dimensions, the effect woiild be quite as fatal to its success as any 
failure connected with its claims as a literaiy composition. It is 
absolutely necessary, therefore, in the first place, that the exter- 
nals or corporeal part of a novel should be of a particular size 
and character, and in the next, that its spirit and diction should 
be wild, startling, and inflated. The public have now so accus- 
tomed themselves to a kind of morbid excitement in litei-ature, 
that they have lost all relish for the quiet simplicity of truth and 
nature. However, it is quite impossible that this should last 
much longer. All artificial stimulants are succeeded by a strong 
re-action, and an indulgence in a taste for the intoxicating 
ingredients of our present literature, is as bad as a habit of 
opium-eating. The pubhc will soon become sick of fierce and 
gloomy Byronisms, and discover that they are but ill adapted 
to improve the taste and judgment. They must ultimately return 
to simpler and nobler models. It will then be acknowledg- 



ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 53 

ed as an undeniable truth, that contortions and convulsions are not 
always indications of spirit and power, and that force and profun- 
dity of mind are quite consistent with a chaste propriety of style. 
When we revert to the dignity of INIilton, and the grace and 
amenity of Goldsmith, the manly vigour of Dryden, and the 
point and elegance of Pope, the w^eighty sententiousness of John- 
son, and the purity, the refinement and the quiet humour of 
Addison, we feel how much English Uterature has suffered by 
the present popular demand for a species of poetry at once meta- 
physical and melodramatic, and for crude, flippant and shallow 
criticisms, and flashy and turgid essays. 1 do not entirely coincide 
with Lord Byron in his estimate of the poetical character of Pope. 
When he places him by implication above Shakspeare and Milton, 
he is guilty of an extravagance that makes us question his sincerity. 
But the " little Nightingale" of Twickenham has certainly been 
as much underrated by others as he has been overrated by Lord 
Byron. Pope is not in the first rank of English poets, which includes 
the four great names of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare and Milton ; 
but he and Dryden (for it is difficult to settle their rival claims) are 
indisputably at the head of the second. 

The peculiarities of one class of literature have almost always a 
direct or indirect efl!'ect upon all others of the same period. 
The rapid, inflated and redundant prose of the present age, cor- 
responds with the similar characteristics of its poetry. It is true 
that Wordsworth and Coleridge may seem in some respects ex- 
ceptions, and they have been censured for very opposite faults. 
But extremes meet. The style of both of these poets is occa- 
sionally as difi^use, tumid and gorgeous, as at other times it is 
simple and bare. No one can be insensible to the real greatness 
of these writers, (the former unquestionably the first poet of his 
time,) but they do not so dazzle us with excess of light as to 
blind us to their defects. They have neglected to concentrate their 
powers, and have scorned to subject themselves to that severe 



54 ON CAKE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 

self- discipline which is so necessary to success in the noble strug- 
gle for immortality. Even Campbell and Rogers, though in 
their earlier works they showed a due respect to the public, and 
an anxious and judicious regard to their own fame, have lately 
deserted their classical models, and have fallen into the vices of 
the new school. The " Theodric" of the one, and the " Italy" of 
the other, are equally unworthy of the authors, and are so different 
from the style of their better days, that had these works been 
published anonymously, Campbell and Rogers are the two last 
names with which the public woidd have connected them. 
They are verbose and feeble. 

Mere rapidity and voluminousness are now commonly mistaken 
for proofs of the power and fruitfulness of genius. Tlie Dutch- 
man, who considered his brother a great poet because he had 
written a book as big as a cheese, was not more ludicrously opposed 
to the true principles of criticism, than are many of our periodical 
reviewers*. They pronounce him only a great poet who has pro- 
duced a bulky volume, and reverse the old saying that a great book 
is a great evil. It is the small volume of modest and unpresum- 
ing appearance that is most offensive. When Gray first published 
his poems, they were so brief, and so few in number, that to give 
his work the appearance of a volume he was obliged to swell it out 
by printing on one side only of the pages. If it had been brought 
into juxta-position with the gigantic and bloated quartos of these 
times, it would have looked more like the ghost of a book than a 
genuine volume. Were a work of such Lilliputian exterior now 



* This Dutchman, then, a man of taste, 

Holding a cheese that weighed a hundred pound. 
Thus like a burgomaster, spoke with judgment vast 
' No poet like my broder step de ground : 

He be de bestest poet, look ! 

Dat all de w orld must please ; 

For he heb vrite von book, 

So big as all dis cheae !' 



Peter Pindar. 



ON CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 55 

published, the author would be laughed at for supposing that it 
could attract the slightest attention. 

As 'tis a greater mystery in the art 

Of painting to foreshorten any part 

Than draw it out, so 'tis in books the cliief 

Of all perfections to be plain and brief. 

Butler. 

In literature, as in every thing else, quality and not quantity is 
the true test of excellence ; and though the remark is a mere truism, 
it is not the less called for. There may be more wealth in a 
lady's jewel-box than in a merchant's ware-house, and there is 
more poetrv and thought in five couplets of Pope than in ten 
cantos of Sir Richard Blackmore. Voluminous and diffuse writers 
are rarely the favorites of fame. The greater number of those 
who flourished in former times are now utterly forgotten. 
Posterity examines unwieldy luggage with a severe and jealous 
eye, and seems glad of an excuse to toss it into the waves of 
Lethe. The few voluminous writers whose works still exist, 
would have been forgotten also, had they not been as careful as 
thev were copious. What a vast crowd of prolific scribblers 
have these great and happy men survived ! How many thousands 
have been buried under the weight of their own lumber ! 

So far from mere voluminousness being the effect of superior 
power, it is an undoubted truth that every writer of a condensed 
style could be as diffuse as he pleases, if he were not anxious 
about the quality of his materials. The converse of this will not 
hold. Blackmore could not have compressed his thoughts like 
Pope, but Pope, had he been willing to degrade and sacrifice his 
genius, might have been quite as diffuse as Blackmore. 

Against much that has been already said, it may perhaps be 
urged that a rich soil is characterized by a speedy and abundant 
vegetation. I admit it ; but this soil must be cultivated with 
incessant care, or it will soon be covered with a rank luxuriance 



56 ox CARE AND CONDENSATION IN WRITING. 

of weeds and foliage. I do not maintain that quick conceptions 
are not a sign of genius, but that to connect glorious thoughts 
with words fit to enshrine and represent them, is a difficulty only 
to be overcome by assiduous toil and study. It is justly remark- 
ed by Shenstone, that fine writing is the result of spontaneous 
thoughts and laboured composition. Buins has acknowledged, 
that though his ideas were easy and rapid, the necessary correc- 
tion of his verses was a heavy task. The great Milton well 
knew the advantage of condensation, and after dictating about 
forty lines would reduce them to half that number. It was the 
custom of Virgil "to pour out his verses in the morning, and 
pass the dav in retrenclumj exuberances and correcting inaccu- 
racies." A French author happily illustrated the comparative 
facility of a diffuse style, when he apologized for the length of 
a letter by stating that he had not time to write a shorter one. 
The writers of the present day, both in prose and verse, pos- 
sess perhaps, taken as a body, more energy of thought and pas- 
sion, and more of the genuine spirit of inspiration than their pre- 
decessors in the time of Queen Anne ; and if they were only half 
as careful and condensed, their great superiority would be evi- 
dent. But too many of them are prodigal of their intellectual 
wealth, and waste their powers. 



EVENING SOUNDS. 

Now slowly sails the gray mist o'er the plain ; 

The busy ' hum of men' is heard afar. 
Blent with the murmurs of the restless main 

Whose tremulous bosom glimmers with the star 
Meek Evening wears beneath her dusky veil. 

And hark ! the nightingale's melodious lay ! 
Borne on the wandering wind o'er hill and dale, 

The soft notes rise, and faU, and melt away ! 



C 57 J 



LOVE-STANZAS. 

I. 

They tell me health's transparent flower glows freshly on thy 

cheek. 
They say that in the festal hall thy looks of rapture speak ; 
They know that boundless love is mine, but do not read my heart. 
And little dream their friendly words awake an inward smart. 

11. 

I well might weep to learn that care had blanched thy lovely brow, 
And yet thine happier fate calls forth no grateful gladness now ; 
I judge from this sad jealous breast, and deem if thou wert true, 
Thou could' st not feel a moment's mirth, nor wear that rosy hue. 

III. 

I should not thus forget, dear girl, that early years are bright. 

That hearts so young and pure as thine, are touched with holy 
light. 

And like the fountain's crystal streams, that through spring mea- 
dows run. 

Reflect alone the fairest things that kindle in the sun. 

IV. 

They tell me too, that 'mid the crowd thou hast a smile for all. 
That oft upon the lowliest ear thy kindest accents fall : 
And oh ! I doubly mourn my fate, and breathe an envious sigh. 
To think the stranger hears that voice, and meets that radiant 
eye ! 

I » 



58 LOVE STANZAS. 

V. 

And yet 'tis selfish thus to grieve — 'tis base to doubt thy truth. 
Those looks and tones of tenderness beseem thy gentle youth. 
And if thv soul of virtue's charms displays a bounteous store, 
Thou need'st not, sweet one, love the less, though / must love the 



VI. 

In fancy's trance I kiss thy brow, and clasp thee to my breast, — 
But ah ! how soon that dream departs, like sun-light in the west ! 
And then my path is dark as their's who wander through the 

night 
When suddenly the fitful winds have quenched a cheering light. 

VII. 

And yet not wholly comfortless is home's deserted cell, 
For there thy written words remain of faithful love to tell ; 
And these are symbols of the soul that life's fond records save. 
E'en when the hand that traced the lines is mouldering in the 
grave ! 

VIII. 

And still around my neck is hung, that last dear gift of thine. 
So like a fairy talisman — a spell almost divine ! 
I hold it in my trembling hand — I touch thy braided hair — 
I do but press the secret spring — and see thy features fair I 



[ 59 ] 

SONNET— TO MY TWIN BOYS. 

Ye seem not, sweet ones, formed for human care — • 

Your dreams are tinged by heaven ; — your glad eyes meet 

A charm in every scene ; for all things greet 

The dawn of life with hues divinely fair ! 

How brightly yet your laughing features wear 

The bloom of early joy ! Your bosoms beat 

With no bewildering fears, — your cup is sweet — 

The manna of delight is melting there ! 

Twin buds of life and love ! — my hope and pride ! 

Fair priceless jewels of a father's heart ! 

Stars of my home ! No saddening shadows hide 

Your beauty now. Your stainless years depart 

Like glittering streams that softly murmur by. 

Or white-winged birds that pierce the sunny sky ! 



SONNET. 

Oh ! now glad Nature bursts upon mine eye ! 
The night of care is o'er. Deep rapture thrills 
My waking heart ; for Life's deforming ills. 
That come like shadows when the storm is nigh. 
Foreboding strife, at length have floated by 
And left my spirit free ! — The skylark trills 
His matin song ; the cloud-resembling hiUs 
In dim cerulean beauty slumbering lie. 
And form the throne of Peace ; the silver stream 
Is sparkling in the sun — its bright waves seem 
Instinct with joy ; the verdant breast of earth 
Teems with delight. — The past is like a dream, 
A dull trance broken by the voice of mirth. 
Or grey mist scatteerd by the morning beam ! 
I 2 



[ GO ] 



HOME-VISIONS. 

[written in INDIA.] 
I. 

The skies are blue as summer seas — the plains are green and 

bright — 
The groves are fair as Eden' showers — the streams are liquid light — 
The sun-rise bursts upon the scene, like glory on the soul. 
And richly round the couch of Day the twilight curtains roll. 



But oh ! though beautiful it be, I yearn to leave the land, — 
It glows not with the holier hues that tinge my native strand. 
Where shadows of departed dreams still float o'er hill and grove. 
And mirrored in the wanderer's heart, immortalize its love ! 



I gaze upon the stranger's face — I tread on foreign ground. 
And almost deem Enchantment's wand hath raised up all 

around : — 
My spirit may not mingle yet with scenes so wild and strange. 
And keeps in scorn of fleshly bonds its old accustomed range. 

IV. 

In that sweet hour when Fancy's spell inebriates the brain. 
And breathing forms to phantoms turn, and lost friends live again. 
Oh ! what a dear delirious joy unlocks the source of tears 
"While like unprisoned birds we seek the haunts of happier years. 



[ 61 ] 



MOODS OF MIND. 
I. 

A SUDDEN gloom came o'er me ; 
A gathering throng of fears 

Enshrouded all before me, 

And through the mist of tears 
I saw the coming years. 



'Tis strange how transient sorrow 
Can mortal sight delude ; 

To-day is dark — to-morrow 
Shall no dull shade intrude 
To tinge a brighter mood. 

III. 

I heard the low winds sighing 
Above the cheerless earth. 

And deem'd the hope of dying 
Was all that hfe was worth. 
And scoflfed at human mirth. 



From that wild dream awaking, 
And through the clouds of care 

A mental sunshine breaking, 
I marvelled how despair 
Could haunt a world so fair. 



L 62 ] 
SONNET. 

TO A FRIEND IN LOVE. 

Believe me, dearest friend, 'twere nobler far 

To scorn the prize for which thy soul hath yearned, 

Than tamely feed a passion proudly spurned 

By one whom thou hast worshipped as a star. 

Oh ! live not thus eternally at war 

With loftier hopes ! Before thy young veins burned 

With love's sweet poison, who like thee discerned 

The glad earth's glory, or so laughed at care ? 

Arrest then quickly this delirious fever. 

Nor breathe again an unavailing sigh ; 

Forget a cold, disdainful heart for ever ; 

Seek the green meadows and the mountains high 

And crystal rivers. Feast thine amorous eye 

On Nature's charms, for she repulseth never. 



SONNET— MORNING. 
When to my fevered brain, the long drear night 
No balm hath brought, and restless and alone 
I've paced the silent fields, till glittering bright 
O'er the green orient mount the fresh day shone ; 
How have I joyed to mark yon hoaiy Tower 
Unfolding slowly, 'neath the morning beams. 
His misty mantle grey ! — In such an hour. 
To Contemplation's eye glad Nature seems 
Most holy, — and the troubled heart is still. — 
The vocal grove, the sky-reflecting lake. 
The cheerful plain, and softly- shadowed hill. 
To loftier dreams are ministrant, and wake 
Unutterable love for this fair Earth, 
And silent bliss, more exquisite than mirth. 



[ 63 ] 



ON GOING HOME. 



[written in INDIA, JANUARY, 1835.] 



The Hooglily is now covered with the stately ships of England, 
It is the season for going home ! They whom fortune has hlessed, 
and whose term of exile is expired, are anticipating the joy of 
once more greeting the faces of early friends, and the green hills 
and valleys on which the morning of existence shed its cheerful 
light. They are preparing for an eventful but happy change. 
Thev are entering upon a fresh chapter of the book of life. Oh ! 
with what yearning hearts do we turn to those yet unread pages 
to which the finger of Hope directs us ! I hear around me many 
voices that speak of home and happiness. I shall soon cease to 
hear them — perhaps for ever ! They will pass, like the wind, into 
happier regions, and breathe in other ears their old familiar 
music. The fate of these emancipated exiles awakens no un- 
generous feeling in my heart, and yet it aches with sorrow when 
I listen to their home- anticipations. They are intoxicated with 
delight, while / sicken with despair. They are like boys at 
school when their long-looked-for holidays have arrived. But he 
who stdl lingers on this distant shore, is like an unhappy child 
who remains in the same dreary and detested place, when his 
more fortunate playmates have departed homewards. 

But amidst all the pleasurable excitements that stir the heart 
of the exile when about to revisit his native land, there are 
moments of occasional thoughtfulness and sadness and apprehen- 
sion which render his fate far less enviable than that of the home- 
returning school-boy. The spirit of the latter is bright and 
buoyant. His hopes are unclouded, his pleasure is unalloyed. 



64 ON GOING HOME. 

The former, on the other hand, has seen too much of human life 
to trust entirely to its enchantments. He is afraid of his own 
happiness. He can scarcely believe it real or well founded. It 
is too like a dream. There is something strange and ominous in 
the unaccustomed elation of his heart, and he varies and mingles 
his emotions like a child that laughs and cries in the same breath. 
These mixed feelings are sometimes succeeded by an unqualified 
mistrust and forlorn forebodings. He reverts to the innumerable 
disappointments that have already darkened his path, and arrives 
at a reluctant conviction that it is weak and unreasonable to ima- 
gine that the course of life can alter. As in the natural world 
the frequent interchange of sunshine and of shadow forbids us to 
anticipate the long duration of pleasant weather, so his past expe- 
rience of human life leads him to regard all prospects of true and 
lasting happiness as idle dreams. He has reached too many of 
those once distant scenes, so gorgeously clad in colors of the air, 
to trust again to the soft illusions which fade at our approach. 
He has learnt that the many-tinted bow of heaven is nothing but 
the junction of light and vapour, and that the scenes that charm 
us afar off 

To those who journey near 
Barren, brown, and rough appear ! 

In this mistrustful mood of mind a thousand melancholy images 
rise up before him. Instead of the bright countenances of the 
living he sees the shrouded faces of the dead. The forms that 
cheered his childhood and smiled upon his later dreams are enve- 
loped in the shadows of the grave. His early home is empty — 
the hearth of his infancy is cold ! The sweet flower-garden, in 
which he once toiled with eager pleasure beneath the summer sun, 
is now a dreary wilderness. Or if the halls and lands of his 
fathers are not lonely and neglected, they are perhaps in the 
possession of the stranger, and his own birth-place is like a scene 



ON GOING HOME. 65 

in a foreign land. He recalls the beautiful Araliic exclamation — 
" I came to the place of my youth and cried, my friends, where 
are thev ? and Echo answered, where are they ?" Even Nature 
herself seems changed. The once familiar hills and valleys have 
a strange look, like the face of an altered friend. He has heard, 
but too often, of such miserable mutations and disappointments, 
and he trembles as he reflects that his own fancv may prove pro- 
phetic. Besides all these gloomy fears and meditations, there 
are other drawbacks to that felicity which the home-seeking exile 
might enjov if he were more sanguine and less reflective. He 
has perhaps formed many friend.ships with his fellow-countrymen 
in India, and it is impossible to break social ties, however slight, 
without some degree of sadness and regret. In the case of long- 
tried and faithful friendships the parting hour — especially when 
the separation is probably an eternal one — is a dreadful trial. In 
the latter case it is like the farewell we take of the dying. Our 
last afl"ectionate look at a familiar face is accompanied with a 
feeling that it is impossible to describe. The lowest depths of 
the human heart are stirred, and that convulsive movement with 
which we tear ourselves away for ever from the dear associates of 
many years seems to wrench some palpable and necessary sup- 
port, and leave us bare and lacerated. Even the very spots that 
we have long wished to quit are hallowed when the time of 
parting is arrived. Like old acquaintances who had once but 
little of our love, or perhaps even something of our hatred, they 
present at such a moment a softer aspect, and we almost wonder 
that we should ever have regarded them with coldness or dislike. 
They have become a portion of our associations, and these, of 
whatever nature they may be, can hardly pass through the mists 
of memory without receiving that tender and dream-like hue 
which makes the past so precious. The coldest and coarsest mind 
is touched and elevated on such occasions. The finest points of 
our common nature are then developed ; and never is the human 

K 



66 ON GOING HOME. 

countenance so informed with beauty, with intellect and with sensi- 
bility, as in parting for ever from old friends and familiar scenes. 
At such a time every one is a poet, and looks upon human life and 
external nature with a deep and solemn feeling. They who are apt 
in ordinary seasons to take a literal and vulgar view of all things, 
assume a higher tone, and see something to feel, to admire, and to 
cherish beyond the range of their daily thoughts and avocations. 
But let us pass over the trial of separation, and trace the after 
progress of the friends who leave us. The hurry and excitement 
of embarkation, and the novelty of their position, are circum- 
stances well calculated to shorten the pain of parting, and give a 
fresh impulse to the mind. When they are once fairly launched 
on the wide blue ocean, the relief from aU common cares and 
duties — the holiday feeling — the exultation of spirit occasioned 
by a change of air and scene — all dispose them to give a ready 
welcome to cheerful thoughts, and to banish every unpleasing 
recollection. Then grave men become as frolicksome as children, 
and take a deep interest in those trifles and amusements which dur- 
ing their long weary exile and amidst far higher cares were either 
forgotten or despised. They seem as if they had taken a new 
lease of life. The fountain of early pleasure is unlocked. Their 
first fresh feelings return upon their hearts, and they become as 
frank and social, and as sanguine and as willing to be pleased, as 
in the generous ardor of their boyhood. Each new occurrence 
in their progress — a change of wind or weather — the capture of a 
fish or bird — the discovery of a ship, like a speck of cloud on the 
far horizon — a dinner or a dance with the strangers, when the 
two little oaken worlds in the vast space of waters, arrive in con- 
tact — the touching at some small uninhabited island, as solitary 
and romantic as the residence of Robinson Crusoe — and finally 
the first pale glimmering of the snow-white cliffs of Albion, make 
their hearts bound within them, and they feel as they have often 
thought that they should never feel again ! 



SONNET WRITTEN IN INDIA. 67 

As they approach the shores hallowed by so many early associa- 
tions and of which they have thought and dreamt for so many years, 
with what tumultuous eagerness they crowd into the first boat 
that reaches the vessel's side ! At last they leap upon their 
native earth ; and they who mix reflection with their transport, 
look back with grateful wonder at their escapes by land and sea, 
and rejoice in the consummation of their long cherished hopes. 

No language could paint the feelings with which those Indian 
parents who have sent children home at an early age hurry from 
the sea-port town at which they land, to embrace again their 
living treasures ! The first excess of joy at such a meeting 
may border upon pain ; but when the deep and wild emotion 
begins to moderate, there is no earthly felicity with which it 
could be compared. It is almost a compensation for the pangs of 
parting, and the miseries of exile. 



SONNET— WRITTEN IN INDIA. 

The scene is sweetly changed ! The lord of day 

No longer wears the countenance of pride 

That seared the green earth's breast ! A veil doth hide 

The lustre of his brow ; his parting ray. 

As some fond lover's smile that melts away 

Through farewell tears, is fading tenderly ! 

And gorgeous clouds, like banners floating free. 

But dimmed by distance, soften into grey ! 

Now, hke a shadowy form, whose beauty steals 

O'er the rapt soul in visionaiy hours. 

Meek TwiUght comes ! From zephyr-haunted bowers 

Arise the tuneful Shama's evening peals. 

Blent with the far wave's murmur, and the songs 

Of village maids, that Echo's voice prolongs. 



[ 68 ] 



LINES TO A LADY 

WHO PRESENTED THE AUTHOR WITH SOME ENGLISH FRUITS AND 

FLOWERS. 

Green herbs and gushing springs in some hot waste. 

Though grateful to the traveller's sight and taste. 

Seem far less fair and fresh than fruits and flowers 

That breathe, in foreign lands, of English bowers. 

Thy gracious gift, dear Lady, well recalls 

Sweet scenes of home, — the white cot's trellised walls — 

The clean red garden path — the rustic seat — 

The jasmine-covered arbour, fit retreat 

For hearts that love repose. Each spot displays 

Some long-remembered charm. In sweet amaze 

I feel as one who from a weary dream 

Of exile wakes, and sees the morning beam 

Illume the glorious clouds, of every hue, 

That float o'er fields his happy childhood knew. 

How small a spark may kindle fancy's flame, 

And light up all the past ! The very same 

Glad sounds and sights that charmed my heart of old. 

Arrest me now — I hear them and behold. 

Ah ! yonder is the happy circle seated 

Within the favourite bower ! I am greeted 

With joyous shouts ; my rosy boys have heard 

A father's voice — their little hearts are stirred 

With eager hope of some new toy or treat. 

And on they rush with never-resting feet ! 



MENTAL CHANGES. 69 

Gone is the sweet illusion — like a scene 
Formed by the western vapours, when between 
The dusky earth and day's departing light. 
The curtain falls of India's sudden nis^ht. 



MENTAL CHANGES. 

As o'er the fairest skies 

The dream-like shadows steal, 

So dim mysterious cares surprize 

The heart whose human weal 

Would seem secure from aught less bright 

Than pleasure's broad congenial light. 

As when this outward world 

Attracts the mortal eye, 

A vapour on the light air curled 

Between us and the sky 

May make its blue depths cold and dun. 

And place in brief eclipse the sun ; 

So in the realms of mind. 

The meanest things have power. 

With thoughts as wayward as the wind 

When fitful tempests lour, 

The loveliest hues of life to cloud. 

And Hope's resplendent orb enshroud. 



[ 70 ] 

SONNETS— WRITTEN AT SEA. 
[fine weather.] 
The plain of ocean 'neath the crystal air 
Its azure bound extends — the circle wide 
Is sharply clear, — contrasted hues divide 
The sky and water. Clouds, hke hills that wear 
The winter's snow-wrought mantle, brightly fair. 
Rest on the main's blue marge. As shadows glide 
O'er dew-decked fields, the calm ship seems to slide 
O'er glassy paths that catch the noon-tide glare 
As if bestrown with diamonds. Quickly play 
The small crisp waves that musically break 
Their shining peaks. — And now, if aught can make 
Celestial spirits wing their downward way, 
Methinks they ghtter in the proud sun's wake, 
And breathe a glorious beauty on the day ! 

[a calm, after a gale.] 
Like mountain-mists that roU on sultry airs. 
Unheard and slow the huge waves heave aroimd 
That lately roared in wrath. The storm-fiend, bound 
Within his unseen cave, no longer tears 
The vexed and wearied main. The moon appears, 
Uncurtaining wide her azure realms profound 
To cheer the sullen night. Though not a sound 
Reposing Nature breathes, my rapt soul hears 
The far-off murmur of my native streams 
Like music from the stars — the silver tone 
Is memory's lingering echo. Ocean's zone 
Infolds me from the past ; — this small bark seems 
The centre of a world — an island lone ; 
And home's dear forms are like departed dreams ! 



[ 71 ] 



ON THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT OF A WANT OF 
MEMORY. 



Nothing is more common than the confession of a defect of 
memon', which may be taken as a proof that it is not generally 
considered one of the nobler faculties of the mind. Men rarely 
acknowledge, even to themselves, a deficiency in any quality which 
ranks highly in their own estimation, or which they suppose to 
be essential to the dignity or grace of their intellectual character. 
People sometimes complain of the want of extrinsic advantages, 
such as a large income or a handsome equipage, because these 
things form no portion of their own moral or mental being. 
They conceive that they have higher and less equivocal claims to 
the respect of their fellow creatures ; and while railing at For- 
tune, enjoy a secret consciousness, and sometimes even venture 
on a pretty open implication, that their merit is deserving of a bet- 
ter fate. Men are discontented with every thing but their own 
minds and persons. They never complain that nature has made 
them silly or ill-featured. In some respects what a happy cir- 
cumstance is that law of our nature by which, with the clearest 
eyes for the defects of others, we are blinded to our own ! The 
feeble-minded and the deformed in body would shrink into them- 
selves with bitter shame and forlorn despondency, if they were to 
see their own deficiencies as they appear to others. The perpe- 
tual mirror of self-reflection would drive them to despair. It is 
remarkable that in proportion as nature is niggard in real gifts, 
she is liberal in those of fancy. Fools and dwarfs are prover- 
bially vain. When we consider how much of the happiness of 
life depends upon our being well deceived, it is perhaps scarcely 



72 ON THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT 

consistent with a humane philosophy to object to the self-com- 
placency of the meanest human creature in existence, especially as 
he is in no degree answerable for his natural defects. If we 
lower a man in his own esteem we not only deprive him of 
the chief source of consolation amidst the positive ills of life, 
but render him less capable of a noble sentiment or a gene- 
rous exertion. It is only when egotism leads to selfishness 
and arrogance, that it becomes necessary- to repress it. The 
principle, however, of self-approval is so deeply ingrafted in 
our system, that it is impossible to eradicate it. By terribly 
severe and caustic handling its growth may be checked for a 
season, but it cannot be utterly destroyed. The cherished weed 
shoots out again in defiance of eveiT obstacle, and with renewed 
force and freshness. 

As no man wilfully depreciates his own character in matters 
which he thinks materially afi'ect its influence over others, the 
frequent complaint of the want of memory is, as I have already 
intimated, rather a slight to that faculty than an acknowledgment 
of its value. People are often ready to resign all pretensions to 
it for the praise of candour, because they think they can well 
afford the sacrifice. A weakness in this faculty is not thought 
any indication of a correspondent weakness in the higher powers 
of the mind. On the contrary, many persons have a notion that 
an exact and vigorous memory is generally associated with a 
feeble judgment and a cold and barren imagination. Pope has 
sanctioned this opinion in his Essay on Criticism. 

"Tlius in the soul vvliile memory prevails 
The solid power of understanding fails ; 
Where beams of warm imagination play 
The memory's soft figures melt away." 

Those who have weak memories and who wish to be reconcil- 
ed to their misfortune, should peruse Montaigne, who is perpetu- 



OF A WANT OF MEMORT. 73 

allv informing his readers of his singular incapability of mental 
retention. No one will dispute the acuteness and power of that 
most delightful Essayist ; and indeed it is sufficiently obvious, 
notwithstanding all his lamentations on the subject of his me- 
mory, that he is by no means dissatisfied with the general charac- 
ter of his own intellect. Montaigne's Confessions, for such his 
Essays mav be called as justly as the egotistical ebullitions of 
Rousseau, may be adduced as a proof of the utter impossibility of 
a man's regarding himself with any thing like that genuine im- 
partiality of judgment with which he may be regarded by others. 
He never tells us any thing which he thinks will really injure 
him greatly in our estimation. Every little error is eagerly fol- 
lowed up by some redeeming virtue. It is true tliat both Mon- 
taigne and Rousseau have dared to communicate to the world 
several confessedly mean and ludicrous passages in their history ; 
but this may have been done partly with a proud consciousness 
that their characters would not suffer by such comparative sun- 
specks, and partly to obtain the more credit for their self- com- 
mendations. Still, however, Montaigne's egotism is nearly as 
candid as is possible to human nature, and he often seems more 
likely to have deceived himself than to have had any intention 
to deceive his readers. His constant complaint of a want of 
memory has been thought the more remarkable on account 
of the quantity of anecdotes and quotations that crowd his 
pages. They are almost as full of learned illustrations as 
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. His French editor, however, 
(Peter Coste) has explained this apparent contradiction. In the 
first place he is said to have fallen into innumerable errors 
respecting names, dates, and persons, and in the next place he 
appears to have added illustration after illustration to his Essays 
while in manuscript, and for every new edition, just as he met 
with suitable materials in the course of his extensive reading. 
Montaigne expresses much the same opinion of the faculty of 



74 ON THE FR15QUENT COMPLAINT 

memory as Pope does. " In my country," says the former, 
" when they would signify that a man is void of sense, they say 
that he has no memory ; and when I complain of this defect of 
mine they reprove me, and do not think I am in earnest in accus- 
ing myself of being a fool ; for they do not discern the difference 
betwixt memory and understanding, in which they make me 
worse than I really am ; for, on the contrary, we rather find by 
experience that a strong memory is liable to be accompanied with a 
weak judgment." He consoles himself, in a very characteristic 
w^y, with the reflection, that in proportion to the extent of this 
defect of memory the more powerful are his other faculties. He 
remarks also that if his memory had been better, he would have 
been apt to rest his understanding and judgment on the wisdom 
of other men, instead of exerting his own natural powers. 

I cannot help thinking, that Montaigne and Pope* have mis- 
taken the nature of memory in its connection with other faculties 
of the mind. It is to be doubted whether any great powers of 
intellect are consistent with a feeble memory. This faculty was 
personified by the ancients as the mother of the Muses. Even 
Montaigne himself, in alluding to the anecdote of Messala Cor- 
vinus having been two years without any trace of memory, 
observes that a privation of this faculty, if absolute, must destroy 
all the functions of the soul. He also quotes the saying of 
Cicero, that " the memory is the receptacle and sheath of all 
science." Rogers has paid it a similar compliment. 

" Ages and climes remote to thee impart 
What charms in genius and refines in art ; 
Thee, in whose hands the keys of science dwell, 
The pensive Portress of her holy cell." 



* Pope himself had an excellent memory. It was " so tenacious and local, 
that he could directly refer to any particular passage in a favorite author." 



OF A WANT OP MEMORY. 75 

Montaigne did injustice to his own memory*. He only reckon- 
ed his sins of forgetfulness, and did not balance them with his 
remembrances. He tells us that he was accustomed to forget the 
names of his servants, and these domestic matters which every 
body around him remembered with the utmost ease and distinct- 
ness. He did not consider how many things there were which he 
remembered and which they forgot. Men of genius forget things 
which the vulgar remember, and remember those which leave no 
impression on ordinary minds. The poet who in ten minutes will 
forget where he has placed his hat and walking stick, will remem- 
ber in what book he met with a beautiful sentiment or expression 
ten years ago. He has a better memory than those who laugh at 
his forgetfulness, but it is employed on subjects with which they 
are not familiar. People remember only those things in which 
they take an interest. The trader remembers the state of the 
market, the poet the state of literature. Let them exchange the 
subject of their attention, and they will both complain of a want 
of memory. Scottf is said to have possessed extraordinary pow- 



* Marmontel observes, in his Memoirs, that he had a great desire to learn, 
but nature had refused him the gift of memory. He admits, however, that 
though t/i(?«!orrfsleft no trace upon his mind, he retained the se;ise of what he read. 

Rousseau repeatedly complains of his want of memory. But he exagge- 
rated the defect ; for no man with such a feeble memory as he represents his own 
to have been, could have gathered and retained a fiftieth part of his knowledge. 

t Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, gives a curious proof of Scott's retentiveness. 
I take the following from the Shepherd's " Familiar Anecdotes." " He, and 
Skene of Rubislaw, and I were out one niglit about midnight, leistering kippers 
in Tweed, about the end of January, not long after the opening of the river for 
fishing, which was then on the tenth, and Scott having a great range of the 
river himself, we went up to the side of the llough-haugh of Elibank ; but when 
we came to kindle our light, behold our peat was gone out. This was a terrible 
disappointment, but to think of giving up our sport was out of the question, so 
we had no other shift save to send Rob Fletclier all the way through ttie dark- 
ness, the distance of two miles, for another fiery peat. 

The night was mild, calm, and as dark as pitch, and wliile Fletcher was ab- 
sent we three sat down on the brink of the river, on a little green sward wliich I 
never shall forget, and Scott desired me to sing them my ballad of "' Gilmaa's 

L 2 



76 ON THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT 

ers of retention — but what were the things that he most easily 
retained ? — specimens of his own favorite art. He doubtless 
forgot other matters that interested him less, in the same way 
that a dull prosaic man would remember the most dry details and 
forget the most deUghtful verses. In Scott's Autobiography, 
(published by Lockhart,) he thus speaks of his memory — " But 
this memory of mine was a very fickle ally, and has through my 
whole life acted upon its own capricious motions, and might have 
enabled me to adopt old Beattie of Mickledale's answer, when com- 
plimented by a reverend divine on the strength of the same facul- 
ty ; — " No, Sir," answei'ed the old borderer, " I have no command 
of my memory. It only retains what hits my fancy, and, probably. 
Sir, if you were to preach to me for two hours, I should not be 
able when you finished to remember a word you had been saying." 
Scaliger tells us that in his youth he could repeat 1 00 verses 
after having once read them. It is said that Dr. Leyden had so 
strong a memory, that he could repeat correctly a long Act of 
Parliament or any similar document after a single perusal. There 
is an anecdote of an English gentleman, whom the king of Prussia 
placed behind a screen, when Voltaire came to read him a new 
poem of considerable length. The gentleman afterwards perplex- 
ed the poet by asserting that the poem was his, and repeated it 
word for word as a proof of the truth of his assertion. Locke in 



clench." Now, be it remembered, that this ballad had never been printed. I 
had merely composed it by rote, and, on finishing it three years before, had sung- 
it once over to Sir Walter. I began it, at his request, but at the eighth or ninth 
stanza I stuck in it, and could not get on with another verse, on which he be- 
gan it again, and recited it every word from beginning to end. It being a very 
long ballad, consisting of eighty-eight stanzas, I testified my astonishment, 
knowing that he had never heard it but once, and even then did not appear to 
be paying particular attention. He said lie had been out with a pleasure party 
as far as the opening of the Frith of Forth, and, to amuse the company, he had 
recited both that ballad and one of Southey's (The Abbot of Aberbrothock), 
both of which ballads he had only heard once from their respective authors, and 
he believed he recited them both without misplacing a word.'' 



OF A WANT OF MEMORY. 77 

his description of memory (which description, as Campbell justly 
observes*, is " absolutely poetical"), mentions that it is recorded 
of " that prodigy of parts, iMonsieur Pascal, that till the decay 
of his health had impaired his memory, he forgot nothing of 
what he had done, read, or thought in any part of his rational 
age." It is said that the admirable Crichton was similarly gifted, 
and could repeat backwards any speech he had made. Maglia- 
becchi, the Florentine Librarian, could recollect whole volumes, 
and once supplied an author from memory with a copy of his 
own work of which the original was lost. Spence records the 
observation of Pope, that Bolingbroke had so great a memory 
that if he was alone and without books, he could refer to a parti- 
cular subject in them, and write as fully on it, as another man 
would with all his books about him. Woodfall's extraordinary 
power of reporting the debates in the House of Commons without 
the aid of written memoranda is well known. During a debate 
he used to close his eyes and lean with both hands upon his stick, 
resolutely excluding all extraneous associations. The accuracy 
and precision of his reports brought his newspaper into great 
repute. He would retain a full recollection of a particular debate 
a fortnight after it had occurred, and during the intervention of 
other debates. He used to say that it was put by in a corner of 
his mind for future reference. 

It seems sometimes more easy to exert the memory than to 
suppress it. " We may remember," says Felton, " what we are 
intent upon ; but with all the art we can use we cannot know- 



* The followins passage bears out Campbell's praise — "The mind very 
often sets itself on work in search of some hidden idea, and turns as it were the 
eye of the soul upon it ; though sometimes too they start up in our minds of 
their own accord, and offer themselves to the understanding ; and very often 
are roused and tumbled out of their dark cells into open day-light by turbulent 
and tempestuous passions, our affections bringing ideas to our memory, which 
had otherwise lain quiet and unregarded." 



78 ox THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT 

ingly forget wliat we would. — Nor is there any ^Etna in the soul 
of man but what the memory makes*." 

Mere abstraction, or what is called absence of mind, is often 
attributed very unphilosophically to a want of memory. I 
believe it was La Fontaine who in a dreaming mood forgot his 
own child, and after warmly commending hitn, observed how 
proud he should be to have such a son. In this kind of abstrac- 
tion external things are either only dimly seen or are utterly 
overlooked ; but the memory is not necessarily asleep. In fact, 
its too intense activity is frequently the cause of the abstraction. 
Tliis faculty is usually the strongest, when the other faculties are 
in their prime ; and fades in old age, when there is a general decay 
of mind and body. Old men, indeed, are proverbially narrative, 
and from this circumstance it sometimes appears as if the me- 
mory presei^ves a certain portion of its early acquisitions to the 
last, though in the general failure of the intellect, it loses its 
active energy. It receives no new impressions, but old ones are 
confirmed. The brain seems to grow harder. Old images be- 
come fixtures. 

It is a stale proverb that great wits have short memories, and 
that small wits have long ones. Truth demands, however, that 
the saying should be reversed. It is not to be denied that extra- 
ordinary powers of memory have been often found in the posses- 
sion of the dullest minds. Jedidiah Buxton, after seeing Gamck 
perform, was asked what he thought of the plaver and the play. 
" Oh," he said, " he did not know, he had only seen a little man 
strut about the stage and repeat 7956 words." He could remem- 
ber the number of words, because he took an interest in numerical 
calculations ; but he forgot the poetry, and saw nothing in the 



Of all afflictions taught a lover yet 
'lis 5ure the hardest science to forget. 

Pope, 



OF A WAXT OF MEMORT. 79 

actor's art. So there are men who recollect dates and names, and 
forget things and persons. When a mind of very inferior range 
concentrates its whole power in the facidty of memory, and exerts 
that faculty on some peculiar class of objects, those observers 
will inevitably be puzzled who do not sufficiently connect the 
result with the process by which it is effected. 

Nemonica, or the art of niemoiy, was studied by some of 
the ancients, and an attempt has lately been made to revive it. 
Mr. Feinaigle, a German, gave instruction in this art in Paris 
about the beginning of the present century ; and as a replv to 
hostile critics he exhibited the progress of fifteen of his pupils. 
After they had been tried in various ways, one of the pupils 
desired the company to give him " a thousand words without 
any connection whatsoever and without numerical order ; for 
instance the word astronomer, for No. 62; wood, for No. 188; 
lovely, for No. 370 ; dynasty, for No. 23 ; David, for No. 90 ; &c. 
&c. till all the numbers were filled ; and he repeated the whole 
(though he heard these words without order and but once) in 
the numerical order ; or he told what word was given against any 
one number, or what number any one word bore." But a system 
of arbitrary association or artificial memory, though it may serve 
to prove how much a particular faculty is capable of improvement, 
is more plausible than useful ; for to cultivate any one power of 
the mind to such an extreme degree, is to destroy the balance 
of the intellectual powers. To be the brilliant pupil of a Feinai- 
gle a man must give up every other object, and improve one 
of his faculties at the expense of all the rest. Fuller advises us 
not to overburthen the memory, and not to make so faithful a 
servant a slave. " Remember," says he, that " Atlas was weary. 
Have as much reason as a camel, to rise when thou hast thy full 
load. Memory is like a purse, if it be over-full that it cannot 
shut, all will drop out," The same writer makes a ludicrous 
observation that " Philosophers place memory in the i-ear of the 



60 ON THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT 

head ; and it seems the mine of memory lies there, because, there 
men naturally dig for it, scratching it when they are at a loss." 
People as often strike the forehead under the same circumstances. 

If men who complain of feeble powers of retention were to 
cultivate theu* memory with the same assiduity with which they 
cultivate their other faculties, they would soon find that it would 
keep an equal pace with the general advance of the mind. Few 
people have given it a fair trial, and still fewer know the extent 
to which it may be invigorated and improved. William Hutton 
divided a blank book into 365 columns, and resolved, as an expe- 
i-iment, to recollect, if possible, an anecdote of his past life, to 
fill up each division. He was astonished at the success of his 
plan, and contrived to fill up 355 columns with his difi^erent remi- 
niscences. What a delightful treasure are such recovered relics 
of the past ! What a triumph over time ! It is a kind of immor- 
tality. Without memory, life would be a daily death ; and would 
be not more brief than desolate. How ignorantly then has this 
faculty been undervalued ! It is as it were the very foundation of 
genius. Wit and fancy are furnished by the memory with the 
materials for analogy, combination, or contrast. It is also more 
closely connected with the imaginative faculty than is generally 
supposed, and is sometimes even unconsciously confounded with 
it. People are as apt to say that they fancy they see a particu- 
lar object as that they remember it. 

The past is tinged with a soft twilight lustre. It is this colour- 
ing which makes it seem so much more dehghtful than the 
present. 

'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view, 
And robes the mountain in its azure hue. 

The far-off landscape is not more lovely to the corporeal sight 
than are distant objects to the inward eye. They are alike steep- 
ed in beauty. But the divine power of memory is incomparably 
more precious than the pleasures of external vision. It is inde- 



OF A WANT OF MEMOFxY. SI 

pendent of time and place. It is like a fairy enchanter, and can 
conjure up spring flowers in a -wintry desert, and reflect a magic 
liiiht on the dreariest moments of existence. It resembles, in 
some respects, a glorious instrument which requires but a single 
air-like touch and its " linked sweetness, long drawn out," 
enthrals the soul with inefl^able delight. Its rich music is like a 
river " that wanders at its own sweet will" through some roman- 
tic valley. 

Mr. Rogers has beautifully described the associating principle ; 

" Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain, 
Our thoughts are linked by many a hidden cliain. 
Awake but one, and lo, what myriads rise I" 

Tliev who call themselves practical philosophers, and talk with 
contempt of the pleasures of imagination, are strangely ignorant 
of our nature. The literal forms an extremely small and by far 
the least precious portion of our enjoyments. The past and the 
future are but dreams. Even the present is rife with doubt, 
mystery and delusion, and the few dull objects that remain un- 
coloured with the hues of imagination are scarcelv worthy of a 
thought. All men complain of the shortness of life, but a cold 
and dry philosophy would make it shorter still. It would confine 
its limits to the passing moment, that dies even in its birth ; for it 
is only in such a pitiful span that the little which is really literal 
in life can at all exist. That moment's predecessor is dead — its 
successor is unborn — and all that is actual or material in its own 
existence is as a drop in the ocean, or as a grain of sand on the 
sea- shore. 

A supposed want of memory is often nothing more than a 
want of method. Desultory readers and thinkers generally com- 
plain of imperfect memories. The reason is, that their thoughts 
are in a state of chaos. Thus Montaigne, who was irregular and 
capricious in his studies, though his memory was probably natu- 

M 



82 ON COMPLAINT OF WANT OF MEMORV. 

rally a good one, was perplexed with vague and confused remem- 
brances. Those who run from one subject to another of the 
most opposite and uncongenial kinds, receive of couise, but very 
imperfect and transitory impressions. Southev, though an imagi- 
native writer, does not complain of want of memory, because he 
is singularly regular and methodical in his studies. Coleridge 
may have done so, because his thoughts were dream-like and 
indistinct ; but he no doubt recollected the wildest visions and 
most romantic tales with greater strength and facility than the 
generahty of mankind, though he could not perhaps have carried 
a domestic pecuniary account in his head from one street to 
another. When a man finds that he for£:ets those things in 
which he takes a deep interest and which other persons who take 
less interest in them remember, he may then — but not till then, 
complain of want of memory. But as no man can remember all 
things, he must be satisfied to confine the exertions of his me- 
mory within a chosen range, and to retain only those things 
which are the dearest to his heart and the most congenial to his 
mind. 



[ 83 ] 

A MOONLIGHT ASSIGNATION. 

[a fragment.] 



" Where is the nymph whose azure eye 
Can shine thiougii rapture's tear? 
The sun is sunk, the moon is high. 
And yet she conies not here." 



Moore. 



Hail to the lovely Queen of Night, 

In aU her chastened glory dight ! 

How sweet her mild yet regal mien ! 

How rich her realms of starry sheen ! 

No threatening shades her brows enshroud. 

Her veil is of the fleecy cloud ; — 

She rules o'er scenes of love and light. 

Calmly blest and purely bright. 

And the beam is soft of her pensive eye. 

As she looks from her silver throne on high ! 

Now Solitude, meek timid maid ! 

Is stealing from the birchen glade. 

And as she leaves her silent cell, 

Beneath the light she loveth well. 

She startles at the rustling trees. 

And the plaintive voice of the sad night-breeze, 

And the music wild of the restless stream 

Glimmering in the lunar beam ! 

Ye radiant stars ! and thou, sweet moon. 
That oft have heard at night's still noon 
Her vows of love. Oh, say if e'er. 
Ye aught could doubt that maiden fair, 
M 2 



84 A MOONLIGHT ASSIGNATION. 

Or Echo's tremulous voice reply 
To sweeter sounds of melody ! 

But oh ! your rays begin to fade. 

And absent still the faithless maid 

Than ye, proud host of stars ! more bright. 

Or even thou, fair Queen of Night ! 
******* 

The Spirit of Morn advances near. 

And all the neighbouring grove doth cheer ! 

Before her form of holy light 

Off glide the dream -like shades of night ! 

Maid of my heart ! oh, why so long ? 

The nightingale hath ceased its song. 

The speckled lark ascends the sky 

To hail the morn's bright majesty. 

The mavis and merle are gaily singing. 

And the woods with their joyous matins are ringing ! 

Is it Fancy's visjion wild ? 
Is Reason from my soul exiled ? 
Is it Hope's delusive beam ? 
Is it Love's delirious dream ? 

Oh, rapturous joy ! 'Twas her I love 
Whose advent waked the vocal grove. 
Whose form a fresh radiance of beauty adorning, 
I deemed in my madness the spirit of Morning ! 



[ So ] 



A LOVER'S THOUGHT. 

'Tis true that we no more may meet. 

Our paths are far apart, 
I may not hear thy lips repeat 

The dictates of thine heart ; — 
Yet though divided thus we stray. 

We share love's golden dream. 
As "neath the same unhroken ray 

The clouds, though parted, gleam ! 



SONNET. 

WRITTEN ON THE BANKS OF THE GANGES. 

How fraught with music, beauty and repose. 
This holy time, and solitude profound ! 
The lingei'ing day along the mountain glows ; 
With songs of birds the twilight woods resound. 
Through the soft gloom, yon sacred fanes around. 
The radiant fly* its mimic lightning throws ; 
Fair Gunga's stream along the green vale flows. 
And gently breathes a thought-awakening sound ! 
Such hour and scene my spirit loves to hail. 
When nature's smile is so divinely sweet — 
When every note that trembles on the gale. 
Seems caught from realms untrod by mortal feet — 
Where everlasting harmonies prevail — 
Where rise the purified, their God to greet ! 

* The Fire-fly. 



[ 86 ] 

SONNET— EVENING AT SEA. 

How calm and beautiful ! The broad sun now 
Behind its rosy curtain lingering stays. 
Yet downward and above the glorious rays 
Pierce the blue flood, and in the warm air glow ; 
While clouds from either side, like pillars, throw 
Their long gigantic shadows o'er the main ; — 
Between their dusky bounds, like golden rain, 
Though still the sun-beams on the wave below 
A shower of radiance shed, the misty veil 
Of twilight spreads around — the orient sky 
Is mingling with the sea — the distant sail 
Hangs like a dim-discovered cloud on high, 
And faintly bears the cold unearthly ray 
Of yon pale moon, that seems the ghost of day ! 



SONNET— TO A CHILD. 

Thou lovely child ! When I behold the smile 

Over thy rosy features brightly play. 

As darts on rippling waves the morning ray. 

Thy fair and open brow upraised the while, 

Untouched by withering fears of worldly guile. 

Nor taught the trusting bosom to betray, — 

Thy sinless graces win my soul away 

From dreams and thoughts that darken and defile ! 

Scion of Beauty ! If a stranger's eye 

Thus linger on thee — if his bosom's pain 

Charmed by thy cherub looks forget to smart — 

Oh ! how unutterably sweet her joy ! 

Oh ! how indissolubly firm the chain. 

That binds, with Unks of love, thy Mothers heart ! 



[ 87 ] 



IMITATIVE HARMONY. 



'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, 
The sound must seem an echo to the sense- 
Pope's Essay 0)1 Ci-iticism*. 
'Tis not enough his verses to complete 
In measure, numbers, or determined feet ; 
Or render things by clear expression bright, 
And set each object in a proper light : 
'i'o all proportioned terms he must dispense. 
And make the sound a picture of the sense. 

Pitfs Truiislation of Vida's Art of Poetry, 



Doctor Johnson lias remarked, that " the notion of imitative 
metre, and the desire of discovering frequent adaptations of the 
sound to the sense, have produced many wild conceits and imagi- 
nary beauties." The truth of this observation does not over- 
throw the critical canon which Pope has rendered so familiar. 
As well might the occasional failures of the painter, or the mis- 
taken interpretations of different judges, be adduced as an argu- 



* In Spence's Anecdotes, Pope's remarks on this subject are thus reported: — 
" I have followed the significance of the numbers, and the adapting them to the 
sense, much more even than Dryden ; and much oftener than any one minds it. 
Particularly in the translations of Homer, where 'twas most necessary to do so ; 
and in the Dunciad, often, and indeed in all my poems. The great rule of verse 
is to be musical ; this other is otdy a secondary consideration, and should not jar 
too much with the former. I remember two lines I wrote, when I was a boy, 
that were very faulty this way. 'Twas on something that 1 was to describe as 
passing away as quick as thought : — 

So swift— this moment here, the next 'tis gone. 

So imperceptible the motion. 



88 IMITATIVE IIARMONV. 

ment against the existence or value of some peculiar and subtle 
beauty in the pictorial art. It is not every spectator who under- 
stands the expression of Raphael's faces. When a pedantic cox- 
comb was lauding that great artist to the skies, in the presence of 
Northcote, the latter could not help saying, " If there was 
nothing in Raphael but what you can see, we should not now be 
talking of him." 

The effect of Imitative Harmony in verse is generally best 
appreciated by a learned ear and a cultivated taste ; but it is in 
some instances of so palpable a character as to be perceptible to 
the dullest reader, though he is not perhaps able to explain the 
cause. Imitative harmony in verse is not a modei'n discovery or 
invention. Homer has been celebrated as the poet, who of all 
others exhibited the happiest adaptation of sense to sound. 
Vida, in his Art of Poetry, has illustrated Virgil's great excel- 
lence in this respect. In point of fact, the art of selecting sounds 
expressive of things is resorted to even in common conversation. 
All good Poets, and even Orators, attend more or less closely to 
the rule in question, though often quite unconsciously. The pas- 
sions naturally suggest fit and faithful sounds. Love and sorrow 
prompt smooth and melodious expressions, and violent emotions 
obtain utterance in words harsh, hurried, and abrupt. We see 
therefore that this critical canon is founded in nature. It is not, 
however, to be denied, that like many other good rules we may 
make a great deal too much of it ; for a too eager and ambitious 
attempt to copy nature in this respect may lead to a total want 
of it ; as those writers who are pathetic or passionate on system 
become mawkish anid ridiculous. The poet should trust wholly 
to his genuine impulses, unless he have art enough to hide his 
art, which comes after all to the same thing, for the perfection of 
art is nature. 

Those readers who are not already familiar with Christopher 
Pitt's translation of Vida would do well to turn to it, if they feel 



IMITATIVE HARMONY. 89 

any interest in the subject of this paper*. Pitt was not a poet. 
He wanted fancy and passion ; but he was a classical scholar and 
a correct and skilful versifier. His translation of the ^neid, 
though greatly inferior to Dryden's, has been praised by Johnson, 
and his Vida's Art of Poetry was once popular. It is curious to 
compare his translation of Vida with those passages which Pope 
has imitated in his Essay on Criticism. The following is one of 
the most celebrated examples of imitative harmony in the Eng- 
lish language : — 

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, 

And the smooth stream in smootlier numbers flows ; 

But when loud surges lasli the sounding shore. 

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar. 

When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, 

The line too labours, and the words move slow; 

Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, 

Flies o'er the unbending corn and skims along the main. 

Pope's Ensai/ on Criticism. 

Let us compare these lines with the translation of the corre- 
spondent passage in Vida : — 

When things are small, the terms should still be so, 

For low words please us when the theme is low. 

But when some giant, horrible and grim, 

Enormous in his gait, and vast in every limb. 

Comes towering on ; the swelling words must rise 

In just proportion to the monster's size. 

If some large weight his huge arms strive to shove 

The verse too labours; the thronged words scarce move. 

When each stiff clod beneaUi the ponderous plough 

Crumbles and breaks, th' encumbered lines march slow. 



* Or they may go to the Latin original, which Pope seems to have read with 
great delight. He has paid the autiior a handsome tribute of admiration. 
Immortal Vida ! on whose honored brow 
The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow ! 
Cremona now shall ever boast thy name, 
As next in place to Mantua, next in fame ! 



90 IMITATIVE HARMONY. 

Not less, when pilots catch the friendly gales, 

Unfurl their shrouds and hoist the wide-stretched sails. 

But if the poem suffer from delay 

Let the lines Jii/ precipitate away ; 

And when the viper issues from the brake. 

Be quick : with stones, and brands, and fire attack 

His rising crest, and drive the serpent back. 

Pitt's Vida. 

Some of the lines in italics are so admirable, that I cannot 
help preferring them to those of Pope. The overflowing of the 
second itahc hne, as if the object were too vast for the usual 
limit of the verse, and the abrupt yet sonorous termination in the 
middle of the third line, are contrived with exquisite skiU and 
judgment. The rapidity of the last four lines is also a highly 
successful exertion of poetical art, and is greatly superior to 
Pope's illustration of quick motion. His last long lumbering line 
is any thing but expressive of extreme swiftness, and as Johnson 
has rightly observed, the word unbending is one of the most slug- 
gish in the language. The hne gives an idea of space, but not 
of celerity. How superior, as an example of quickness, is the 
following : — 

Let the lines fly precipitate away. 

And how exceedingly felicitous is the pause at " Be quick" — 
and the eager enumeration of the means of destruction ! 

But in the illustration of smoothness and of toil, Pope is very 
superior to Pitt, and he also exhibits a great advantage over him 
in the general elegance and finish of his performance. Pitt has 
been obliged to borrow several of Pope's expressions, and some 
of his own are wretchedly prosaic. " Strive to shove," for 
instance, is detestable. The ensuing couplets are not to be com- 
pared to the first four lines in the extract from Pope : — 

To the loud call each distant rock replies ; 
Tossed by the storm the towering surges rise ; 



IMITATIVE HARMONY. 91 

While the hoarse ocean beats the sounding shore, 
Dashed from the strand the flying waters roar, 
Flash at the shock, and gathering in a heap, 
The liquid mountains rise, and overhang the deep. 
But when blue Neptune f'rotn his ear surveys, 
And calms at one regard the raging seas, 
Stretched like a peaceful lake the deep subsides, 
And the pitched vessel o'er the surface glides. 

Pitt's Vida. 

This is tame and prosaic, ^^■itll the exception of the Alexandrine 
in itahcs, which is highly expressive and picturesque. I must 
here quote a couplet from Wordsworth. 

And see the children sporting on the shore, 
And hear the mighty icaters rolling evermore. 

The second is a magnificent line, and has an immortal air. 
The sound and the sense are equally impressive. It is even 
superior to a similar passage in Shelley. 

And hear the sea 

Breathe o'er my dying brain its last monotony. 

While on the subject of the sea, I may as well also refer to 
Lord Byron, whose oceanic poetry has many fine illustrations of 
Pope's favorite rule. What a free, wave-like, sweeping harmony 
pervades the following exquisite stanza : — 

Once more upon the waters ! yet once more ! 
And the waves bound beneath me like a steed 
That knows its rider. Welcome to their roar ! 
Swift be their guidance wheresoe'er it lead ! 
Though the strained mast should quiver as a reed. 
And the rent canvas fluttering strew the gale. 
Still must I on ; for I am as a weed 
Flung from the rock on ocean's foam to sail 
Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail ! 
N 2 



92 IMITATIVE HARMONY. 

The harmony of this splendid Spenserean stanza, (a form of 
verse which Shelley considered inexpressibly delightful) is quite 
perfect, and the ideas are in unison with the music. For some 
portion of its excellence the noble poet was perhaps indebted to 
James Montgomery, of Sheffield, who had previously written : — 

He only, like the ocean-weed uptorn 

And loose along the world of waters borne, 

Was cast, companionless, from wave to wave. 

In Lord Byron's grand and vivid description of a storm 
amongst the mountains, there is a specimen of imitative harmony. 

Far along 
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among, 
Leaps the live thunder ! 

But let me return to Pope, who after all has given us more 
specimens of this peculiar beauty than almost any other poet. 
What an admirable illustration of a lame Alexandrine is the 
following : — 

A needless Alexandrine ends the song, 

And, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along. 

The hitch in the verse at the word drags has an excellent effect 
and completes the image. But Alexandrines are not always 
" needless," though in the heroic couplet they can very rarely be 
introduced without an awkward effect. In winding up the volume 
of sweet sounds in the Spenserean stanza, their grace and fitness 
are unquestionable. It is absolutely necessary, however, that the 
csesuval pause should be after the sixth syllable, or the line halts, 
and " drags, like a wounded snake." It has always excited 
my surprise that Shelley, who was deeply learned in the mys- 
teries of versification, should have so frequently transgress- 
ed this rule. Byron, Campbell and others have been guilty 



IMITATIVE HARMONY. 93 

of the same error. Even Spenser himself is often at fault in his 
concluding lines. 

The following lines from the Essay on Criticism illustrate the 
rules the)' would enforce : — 

These equal syllables alone require, 

Though oft the ear. the open vowels tire ; 

While expletives their feeble aid do join, 

And — ten — low — words — oft — creep — in — one — dull — line*. 

In the next couplet, I think Dryden's name should stand in 
the place of Denham's. The first line has the " easy vigour" of 
which it speaks. 

And praise the easy vigour of a line 

Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness join. 

The anecdote given by Leigh Hunt of Moore's repeating with 
great gusto, the following lines by Dryden, remarkable for their 
" easy vigour/' pleasantly occurs to me at this moment ; — 

Let honour and preferment go for gold, 
But glorious beauty isn't to be sold. 

A comparison of a couplet of Dryden's with two of Doctor 
Johnson's, places the unafi^ected force and freedom of the former 
in a striking light. 

Let eb^ervation wth extensive view 
Survey mankind J'rom China to Peru, 
Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife. 
And watch the busy scenes of croicded life ; 
Then say, &c. 

Listen to Glorious John Dryden, and compare his directness 
with the pompous pleonasms of the author of the Rambler. 

Look round the habitable world; how few 
Know dieir own good, or knowing it, pursue. 

* There are, however, many very fine monosyllabic lines in English Poetry. 



94 IMITATIVE HARMONY. 

Hazlitt, I think, mentions that it was Wordsworth who first 
drew attention to these parallel passages. 

The modulation of the following lines from Dryden's " Theodore 
and Honoria" is in admirable keeping with the subject. The 
pauses are very happily arranged. 

While listening to the murmuring leaves he stood 
More than a mile immersed within the wood ; 
At once the wind was laid ; the whispering sound 
Was dumb ; a rising earthquake rocked the ground ; 
With deeper brown the grove was overspread, 
A sudden horror seized his giddy head, 
And his ears tingled and his colour fled. 

Here is another passage of a similar character from the same 
poet. 

The fanning wind upon her bosom blows ; 
To meet the fanning wind her bosom rose ; 
The fanning wind and purling stream continue her repose. 

In Dryden's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day (Alexander's Feast) there 
are numerous adaptations of sound to sense. The repetition of the 
word fallen in the following lines has a remarkably fine eflFect. 

He sung Darius great and good, 

By too severe a fate 
Fallen, J'uUen, fallen, J'ullen, 
Fallen, from his high estate 

And weltering in his blood. 

There is a similar beauty in the ensuing. 

The prince, unable to conceal his pain. 
Gazed on the fair 
Who caused his care, 
And sighed and looked, sighed and looked, 
Sighed and looked, and sighed again ; 
At length with love and wine at once oppressed 
The vanquished victor sunk upon her breast. 



IMITATIVE HARMONY. 95 

The variation of the time in the following passage is extremely 
happy. 

Now strike the golden lyre again : 

A louder yet, and yet a louder strain ; 

Break his bands of' sleep asunder, 

And rouse him like a rattling peal of thunder ! 

Hark, hark, the horrid sound 

Has raised up his head, 

As uioakedfrom his dead. 

And amazed he star-es around! 

Dryden seems to have particularly enjoyed the effect of repre- 
sentative harmony. The following verse from a song in his King 
Arthur has a very martial sound. 

Come, if you dare, our trumpets sound ; 
Come, if you dare, the foes rebound ; 
We come, we come, tee come, we come, 
Sai/s the double, double, double, beat of the thundering drum. 

This, however, is a repetition of some lines in the first of the 
author's two Odes for St. Cecilia's Day. 

The trumpet's loud clangor 
Excites us to arms. 
With slu'ill notes of anger 
And mortal alarms. 
The double, double, double beat of the thundering drum 
Cries hark ! the foes come ; 
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat. 

These noisy lines are perhaps not in the best taste, and remind 
me of Pope's description of Sir Richard Blackmore : 

What ! like Sir Richard, rumbling rough and fierce, 
With arms and George and Brunswick crowd the verse, 
Rend with tremendous sound your ears asunder 
With gun, drum, trumpet, blunderbuss and thunder! 



96 IMITATIVE HARMONY. 

In Bonnell Thornton's burlesque Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, 
there is the following amusing specimen of imitative harmony. 

In strains more exalted the salt-box shall join, 
And clattering and battering and clapping combine : 
With a rap and a tap, while the hollow side sounds, 
Up and down leaps the flap, and with rattling rebounds. 

Though Pope's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day is generally admitted 
to be a failure, and to be in almost every respect greatly inferior 
to Dryden's Alexander's Feast, it is not utterly devoid of merit. 
Dr. Johnson highly commends the third stanza, in which he says 
" there are numbers, images, harmony and vigour, not unworthy 
the antagonist of Dry den." Dr. Aiken remarks of the first stanza 
(which I shall here quote), that it " seems to imitate happily the 
music it describes :" — 

Descend ye Nine ; descend and sing ; 
The breathing instruments inspire ; 
Wake into voice each silent string, 
And sweep the sounding lyre ! 

In a scidly pleasing strain 

Let the tcarhling lute complain ; 

Let the loud trumpet sound 
Till the I'oofs all around 
The shrill echoes rebound ; 
While in more lengthened notes and slow, 
The deep, majestic, solemn oi-gans blow. 
Hark ! the numbers soft and clear 
Gently steal upon the ear ; 
Now louder, and yet louder rise. 
And fill with spreading sounds the skies; 
Exulting in triumph noiv sivell the bold notes, 
In broken air trembling, the wild music floats, 
Till by degrees, remote and small. 
The strains decay, 
And melt away 
In a dying, dying fall. 

But though Dr. Johnson bestows a general approval on this 
poem (the least successful of all Pope's works), and though he 



IMITATIVE nARMOXY. 97 

"honours some passages with particular praise, this first stanza, he 
says, consists of " sounds well chosen indeed, but only sounds." 
I have already admitted the danger of a too minute attention to 
the art of representative metre, as it may lead the poet to over- 
look far more important considerations, and to sacrifice sense to 
sound. A similar danger, however, is common to all other arts. 
The painter as well as the poet may make too much of his 
accessories, and too little of his main subject. This is no reason, 
however, why the painter's accessories or the poet's metrical 
details should be treated with indifference or contempt. The 
music of verse seems to have a natural affinity to what may be 
called the music of thought, and no reader of nice ear or poetical 
sensibility can fail to appreciate its worth. " Harmony of period 
and melody of style," says Shenstone, "have greater weight than 
is generally imagined in the judgment we pass upon writing and 
writers. As a proof of this, let us reflect, what texts of Scripture, 
what lines in poetry, or what periods we most remember and quote, 
either in verse or prose, and we shall find them to be only 
musical ones." Beautiful thoughts and exquisite emotions " in- 
voluntarily move harmonious numbers." 

One of Pope's best attempts at imitative harmony is his de- 
scription of the labour of Sisyphus. 

With many a weary step and many a groan, 
Up the high hi/I he heaves a huge round stune ; 
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound, 
Thitnders impetuous down and smokes along the ground. 

To every reader, who has gentility enough to aspirate the Ji's, 
the second line is quite a task. He has given us another hne 
that moves with the same difficulty. 

" And when up ten steep slopes you've dragged your thifdis.'' 

Here indeed 

The line too labours, and the words move slow. 
o 



98 IMITATIVE HARMONY. 

Mr. Crowe, the author of Lewisdon Hill, has attempted a new 
version of this celebrated passage respecting Sisyphus, and it is 
not without great merit, though unequal perhaps to that of Pope. 

Then SisypVnis I saw, with ceaseless pain 
I.abourino; beneath a ponderous stone in vain. 
Wii/i hamh and feet st?'ivij!i:, with all fiis niii^lit 
He puahed the umcichh/ mass up a steep height ; 
But ere he could achieve his toilsome course, 
Just as he reached the top, a sudden force 
Turned the curst stone, and slipping; from his hold 
Down again, doivn the steep rebounding, doicn it rolled. 

Paradise Lost abounds in examples of the beauty of which I 
am now treating. The toil of Satan perhaps even surpasses that 
of Sysiphus, 

So he with difficulty and labour hard 
Moved on : with difficulty and labour he — 

Now for the " harsh thunder" of the gates of Hell! With what 
rapidity they fly open ! 

On a smlden open fly 
With impetuous recoil and jarring sound 
The infernal doors ; and on their hinges grate. 
Harsh thunder. 

Here is a happy imitation of an echo. 

I fled and cried out, death ! 



Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed 
From all her caves, and back resounded death ! 

The pause after the word shook in the next extract is very 
eflfective. 

And over them triumphant Death his dart 
Shook, but delayed to strike. 

The quick and joyous movement of the ensuing verses is a 
particularly happy instance of representative harmony. 



IMITATIVE HA.RMONV. 9!) 

Let the merry bells ring round. 
And the jocund rebecks sound, 
To many a youth, and many a maid, 
Dancing in the chequered sliade. 

There is a watery music in the following Unes. 

Fountains ! and ye that warble as ye flow, 
IMelodious murmurs, warbling tune his praise. 

Here is a description of carriage wheels descending and as- 
cending a hill. It is noticed by Mr. Crowe, but I know not who 
the author is. 

Which in their different courses as they pass 

Mush viohntl)/ down precipitate, 

Or doiclij turn, (i/i resting, up the steep. 

Dyer in his " Ruins of Rome," a poem that Wordsworth re- 
marks has been very undeservedly neglected, has a fine specimen 
of imitative harmony, in which the fall of ruins is represented 
with great effect. The passage is quoted by Johnson with com- 
mendation. 

The pilgrim oft 
At dead of night, 'mid his orison, hears 
Aghast the voice of time ; disparting towers 
Tumbling all precipitate doivn dashed. 
Rattling around, loud thundering to the moon. 

The same poet well describes the sudden delay in a ship's pro- 
gress on the Indian Ocean by a cessation of wind. 

With easy course 
The vessels glide ; unless their speed be stopped 
By dead culms, that oft lie on those smooth seas. 

The following remarkably successful adaptation of sound to 
sense is from Pope's Homer's Iliad. It has a greater freedom of 
versification than the translator usually exhibits. 

As from some mountain's craggy forehead torn 
A rock's huge fragment Hies, with fury borne, 
o 2 



100 IMITATIVE HARMOXT. 

(Wliich from the stubborn stone a tonent rends) 

Precipitate the ponderous mass 'lescends ; 

From steep to steep the rolling ruin bounds, • 

At every shock tlie crackling wood resounds ; 

Still gathering strength, it smokes ; and urged amain, 

Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain p 

There stops, &c. 

The ensuing lines from Shakespeare's " Troilus and Crcssida" 
seem inflated with the bulky meaning. 

" The large Achilles, on liis press'd bed lolling, 
From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause.'' 

Cowlev laboured hard to produce an echo to the sense, and 
sometimes succeeded, as the next four lines may show. The con- 
tinuity of a stream is well represented. 

He who defers his work from day to day, 

Does on a river's brink expecting stay. 

Till the whole stream that stopped him shall be gone, 

ir//u7* runs, and us it runs, j'or ever will run on. 

The progress of Milton's fiend is a very striking illustration of 

the effect to be gained by an artftd and choice arrangement of 

words. 

" Tlie fiend 
O'er bog, or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare, 
\\ ill) head, hands, wings or feet pursues his way. 
And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps or flies." 

I need hardly give any further specimens*, for every reader, 
though he may not previously have studied the subject, must now 
understand the nature of imitative harmony in verse. It de- 
pends, it will be seen, sometimes on the sound of particular 
words, sometimes on the management of the pauses, sometimes 
on the length or shortness of the metrical feet, and sometimes on 
all these circumstances artfully or happily combined. 



* A few of the«e examples have been noticed before by .Tohnson, Beattieand 
Crow'j ; but 1 have iatioduced as many new ones as I could recollect. 



[ 101 ] 



A SOLDIER'S DREAM. 



The foulest stain and scandal of our nature 
Became a boast j— one murder made a Villain, 
Mitlioiis a Hero! 



Porteus. 



The foe had fled— the fearful strife had ceased— 
And shouts arose of mockery and joy, 
As the loud trumpet's wild exulting voice 
Proclaimed the victory ! With weary tread. 
But spirits hght and free, the victors passed 
On to the neighbouring citadel. Nor deemed. 
Nor recked they, in that moment's pride, of aught 
But glory won. Or if a tender thought 
Recalled the fallen brave, 'twas like the cloud 
On Summer's radiant brow — a flitting shade. 

Yet on the battle-plain how many lav. 

In their last dreamless sleep ! Some too were there 

Who struggled yet within the mighty grasp 

Of that stern conqueror— Death. The fearful throes 

Of parting life, at intervals, woidd wring. 

E'en from the proudest heart, the piercing cry 

Of mortal agony. 

In pain I sunk. 
Worn and disabled, 'mid the dead and dying. 
Night's shadows were around,— the sickly moon. 
Dim and discoloured, rose, as if she mourned 
To gaze upon a scene so fraught with woe ! 



102 A soldier's dream. 

And there was one who pa?sed me at this hour, 

A form famihar to my memory 

From long- departed years. For we had met 

In early youth, with feelings imconcealed. 

And passions unrepressed. E'en then he seemed 

The bane of everv joy. His brow grew dark 

At boyhood's happy voice and guileless smile. 

As though they mocked him ! Now he sternly marked 

My well-remembered face, yet lingered not. 

There was a taunt upon his haughty lip, 

A iierv language in his scowling eye. 

My proud heart ill could brook ! 

E'en like a vision of the fevered brain. 
His image haunted me — and urged to madness. — 
And when my wearied limbs were locked in sleep. 
The blood-red sod, my couch — the tempest-cloud. 
My canopy — my bed-fellows, the dead — 
My lullaby, the moaning midnight wind — 
I had a dream — a strange bewildered dream — 
And he was with me ! 

Methought I heard the hollow voice of Death 

Tell of another world, while awful shrieks 

Of wild despair, and agony, and dread. 

Shook the dark vault of heaven ! — Suddenly 

Deep silence came, — and all the scene was changed ! 

Insufferable radiance glared around. 

And pained the dazzled eye. In robes of light 

High on a gorgeous throne, appeared a Form 

Of pure celestial glory ! In deep awe 

A silent, vast, innumerable throng 

Of earth-freed warriors bowed. The Form sublime, 



A soldier's dream. 103 

In these benign and memorable words, 

The purer spirits hailed — " Ye who liave owned 

Religion for your Leader, and have loved 

The family of Man, and toiled and bled 

For Liberty and Justice ! Ye have fought 

A glorious fight, and gained a glorious meed — 

A bright inheritance of endless joy, 

A home of endless rest !" 

At this, flashed forth 
With lineaments divinely beautiful. 
Fair shapes of bright-wing'd beings, holy guides 
To realms of everlasting peace and love ! 

Alas ! how few of that surrounding host 

Were led to happier worlds ! The chosen band 

In sacred hght departed ; and the form 

That sat upon the throne, then slowly rose 

With darkened brow, and majesty severe. 

And this dread judgment gave — 

" He that can love not Man loves not his God ! 

And lo ! his image ye have dared to mar 

In hate and exidtation, and for this 

Shall fearful strife, and agonies untold, 

Be your eternal doom !" 

And now with horrid laughter mixed with yells 
More terrible than shuddering Fancy hears 
Raising strange echoes in the charnel vault. 
Uprose grim Fiends of Hell, and urged us on. 
Through paths of hideous gloom, till like the sea 
At night, wide shown beneath the lightning's glare, 
A boundless plain quick burst upon the view ! 



104 A soldier's dream. 

In the dim distance glittered shafts of war ; — 
Wild Horror's cry, and Hate's delirious shout. 
The din of strife, and shrieks of agonv. 
Came on the roaring blast ! A mighty voice, 
Piercing the dissonance infernal, cried, 
" On to the Hell of Battle .'" These dread word?, 
Like sudden thunder, startled and dismayed 
Each quailing warrior's soul. But soon despair 
Was wrought to frenzy, and we madly rushed, 
To join the strife of demons ! 

One alone 
Amid that countless throng now caught mine eye ! 
His was the form I loved not in my youth, 
And cursed in after years. We fiercely met, — 
A wild thrust reached him. Then he loudly shrieked, 
And Death's relieving hand besought in vain. 
Where Death could never come ! With quenchless rage, 
And strength untamed, on his triumphant foe. 
Again he turned ! — ^but he was victor now ; — 
And in unutterable pain — I woke ! 

'Twas morning — and the sun's far-levelled rays 
Gleamed on the ghastly brows and stiffened limbs 
Of those that slumbered — ne'er to wa*ke again ! 



[ 105 ] 



THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD. 

[WRITTEN'* ON THE 31 ST OF DECEMBER, 1833.] 



The Old Year and the New Year are now quickly meeting, 
and will separate in less than the shake of a skylark's wing, or 
the single glimmer of a star ! 

" We take no note of time but by its loss," and are not easily 
reminded of the purport and rapidity of our voyage down the 
stream of life. If it were not for the land-marks and divisions 
which are visible in our course, we should glide onwards to the 
vast waters of eternity with a perfect unconsciousness of our pro- 
gress. It is well, therefore, to preserve, as far as possible, those 
ancient customs which celebrate the advent of particular seasons, 
and render them memorable and distinct. The vigil on the last 
night of the old year to welcome the arrival of the new one is, 
abstractedly considered, a beautiful and affecting practice, though 
it is unhappily too often attended with inebriation and ^iilgar 
merriment. Nothing can be less appropriate to the season than 
jollity and uproar. If there be any one period that seems more 
essentially suited to sober thought than another, it is this. There 
is something ungracious in the manner in which we mix our 
merry welcome of the new year with our farewell to the past year, 
which is like an old familiar face, fraught with many tender 
associations. 

Though, like other men, I have sometimes looked towards the 
future with eagerness and curiosity, I am far more disposed to 
linger over the memory of departed hours. I feel no peculiar 
satisfaction in parting with an ancient friend, nor can I hail his 
successor without some feeling of distrust. But the generality of 
p 



106 THE NEW TEAR AND THE OLD. 

mankind are naturally gamblers, and are ever ready to risk 
their accustomed pleasures for the chance of new ones. Those 
who have once lost their hearts to Fortune can never be persuad- 
ed that she will continue indifferent to their claims, however 
scornfully she may treat them for a while. The advice of the 
wise, and their own sad experience are equally unprofitable to 
those who are blinded by ambition and self-will. Men of ardent 
temperaments, and of an active life which leaves little time for 
thought, have generally a very slight regard for the past, and launch 
all their happiness on the deceitful future. They fancy themselves 
more shrewd and practical than the philosopher, who, because he 
occasionally retraces his path in the soft twilight of imagination, 
is considered a visionary idler. They know not the stuff of which 
life is made, and are themselves in a wild delusion. What is the 
future, for which they wear out their hearts and minds with such 
incessant toil ? — a nonentity — the dream of a dream. The past, 
on the other hand, is a storehouse of treasures that are lodged 
beyond the reach of fate. While we have life and memory they 
are ours. We could not have them longer. This is equivalent to 
an eternity of enjoyment, for it ends but with our consciousness of 
good and evil. The future is rife with disappointment. The 
present glides by us while we breathe its name. We may as well 
endeavour to grasp water in the hand, as to retain such a small 
and slippery division of human life. It is, indeed, an inexpressibly 
insignificant portion of existence, and is chiefly valuable as we 
make it worthy to live in our recollection after its departure. As 
the past then forms so large a share of our being, it is strange 
that men should bring themselves to regard it with indifference, and 
to waste all their thoughts upon things and seasons yet unborn. As 
we cannot take a last look at the meanest material object around 
which is breathed an atmosphere of old associations, it seems 
almost inexplicable that we should be so ready to insult the 
departing year with the loud peals of joyance. Our ancient friend 



THE NEW TEAR AND THE OLD. 107 

is laden with a weight of many cares and pleasures ; but because 
the stores are familiar and the bearer is old, ought both to be 
despised ? If a strange face and untried goods are at our door, and 
the old guest must necessarily resign his place to the new one, 
this merriment at parting with the former is at least ill-timed. 
As he glides away from the scene into the shades of night, with 
what a child-like eagerness do men clamorously welcome his suc- 
cessor, who comes like a plausible pedlar from a foreign land. 
They gaze greedily on his glittering wares, and grasp at the brit- 
tle bubbles of hope, the gilded dross of avarice, and the drums and 
rattles of ambition. 

I know nothing of the future. I look upon the past as a well- 
tried friend that has departed for an eternal exile. Its evil quali- 
ties are written on water, its good on adamant. I lament that it 
is gone, and grieve that I did not better appreciate its worth 
before. I see it now through an altered medium, unblinded by 
fear or hope or passion. I cannot scan the advancing year 
with the same facility and precision. The future is like the 
mist that hangs about the dawn of day. Coming objects loom 
largely in the shade, but dwindle as the light increases. The past 
is Uke an evening landscape bathed in the lingering glory of a de- 
parted sun. Our retrospections are generally of a nature far more 
pure and holy than our hopes and our desires. The evil-minded 
do not dwell fondly upon the past. Men love to recall the me- 
mory of their best actions, and not their worst. The stern and 
heartless rush recklessly forward, 

" And cast no longing, lingering, look behind." 

The gaiety of ingenuous childhood — the first smile of innocent 
love — the cordiality and disinterestedness of youthful friendship 
— our earliest impressions of the beauty of human life and the love- 
liness of external nature — the whispered prayers at a mother's 
knee ere the consciousness of sin made us dread our great Crea- 
p 2 



108 THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD. 

tor — these are amongst the many recollections that hallow and 
endear the past, and which would be ill exchanged for the vague 
and uncertain visions of the future. ^ 

Even if the past has been to some a season of affliction, who 
can say that the new year will be less unhappy ? We know 
the worst of the one — we know literally nothing of the other. 
The dreariest path has ever some few verdant spots that may 
be looked back upon with a feeling of interest, and even remem- 
bered sorrows do not irritate us like those which are anticipated, 
but on the contrary often assume an aspect that is strangely pleas- 
ing. Their bitterness has passed away. If Hope never deviates 
from her onward path, nor mingles in the train of departing 
seasons, Memorj' is a safer and sweeter though less brilliant com- 
panion, and her footsteps are unfollowed by the fiend Despair. 
I have already adverted to the pure and virtuous and refined 
emotions which are awakened by the contemplation of the past. 
Let those who doubt the truth of this reflect, how much more 
ready they are to forgive old injuries or vexations than such as 
are experienced in the present or anticipated in the future. We 
recollect ancient quarrels with self-accusation and a generous 
allowance. Former rivalries and contests now seem to have been 
unnecessarily fierce and virulent. A change has come over us, 
and our hearts are softened. We cannot dwell, therefore, too 
much upon the past. It is a gentle teacher of virtue, wisdom and 
benevolence. We listen to its solemn voice with a mysterious 
reverence and a severe delight. The most trivial relics of our 
eai'lier life are treasured things. They gleam out from the dusky 
shadows of departed years like gems seen by moonlight. " Heaven 
hes about us in oui" infancy." 

Our first pure pleasures are yet in Memory's holy keeping. 
However rough and dreary may be our onward pilgrimage, she, 
like a heavenly spirit, still haunts and cheers us with her magic 
mirror. 



THE NEW TEAR AND THE OLD. 109 

It were a pitiful philosophy that would deprive us of such 
enchantments as these, and make us look upon the varied and 
deHghtful volume of the past as a dead letter. Thoughts are 
things, and form as essential a part of our actual existence, as our 
flesh and blood. 

We should reckon not our life by years and days, but by what 
we do and think. In this way a short life might be made a long 
one, by the quantity of ideas and deeds that would be crowded 
into its narrow span. Such is the life of angels, and the only 
one that is worthy of intellectual beings. Spirits have no marks 
of time. The idler and the slumbei'er only exist at intervals, for 
vacuity and sleep are a partial death. 

The noon of night is fast approaching. Now for the farewell 
toU to the departing year, and the shouts of welcome to the 
stranger ! But hark ! — the clock has struck ! The mystic change 
is over. The new year has come — the old one has departed. 
As at the death and succession of mighty monarchs, we mingle 
sighs and gratulations, and merriment and mourning. It is a sam- 
ple of the varieties and incongruities of human life. We resem- 
ble those hasty and fickle lovers who receive a new partner ere 
the predecessor is cold and buried. The gay bridal chariot 
dashes against the slow solemn hearse. The funeral baked meats 
furnish forth the marriage table. But let others run riot as they 
may at the fresh arrival, and worship the rising sun, my own heart 
still yearns towards the vanished year. I have learnt its worst 
quaUties and its best, and the first are softened and the last in- 
creased by the tender hand of Time. Before me all is dark- 
ness. I see not 

" Through what variety of untried being, 
Through what new scenes and dangers I must pass.'' 

With reference to the future I can be certain but of one 
solemn fact, that the new year brings me nearer to that awful 



110 THE NEW TEAR AND THE OLD. 

period, ^Yhen even the past, which now hves so vividly in remem- 
brance, will be utterly annihilated, and 

" This sensible warm motion will become 
A kneaded clod." 

I turn from this chilling prospect with stifled breath, and think 
of " the bhnd cave of eternal night" with a dread revulsion ; — for 
I love the blue skies, the green fields and the crystal air. I 
would still listen to the sound of merry voices, and meet the 
radiant faces of the young and gay. I would study and com- 
mune with hving wisdom, and trace the wondrous intellectual 
advances of mankind. Oh ! it is terrible to receive a mandate to 
depart 

" From the warm precincts of the cheerful day," 

ere -v'outh and hope have left us. To quit the glittering and 
crowded theatre of life, for the dark, sohtary and silent cell of 
death. To be forced from the scene at a fate-fraught period like 
the present, when such mighty moral revolutions are at work, is 
hke being dragged from the spectacle of an unfinished drama at 
the moment when we are most interested in its progress. But, 
alas ! the fairest and the proudest of human beings must bow 
submissively to the stem voice of Asrael, come when he may, and 
lie in " cold obstruction," while many a loathsome reptile is bask- 
ing in the pleasant sun ! Our dearest friends and kindred, our 
ovm cherished offspring, will at last walk over the cold, damp 
sod which presses upon our breasts, with as much gaiety and 
thoughtlessness as if we had never been. 

It is a law of our nature that the image of death is ever thrust 
from our minds by the strong antagonist principle of vitality, and 
while our veins are supplied with pure and healthy blood the 
visions of the charnel house are faint and powerless. They may 
laugh at death who do not vividly apprehend its nature. The 



THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD. Ill 

healthy and the happy cannot see it. There are too many bright 
objects between them and the grave. What we take for courage 
is often mere obtuseness of mind or strength of nerve. A fit of 
sickness or meditation works a wondrous change. Perhaps no 
human being ever looked death in the face without a shudder. 
The hero who marches up to the cannon's mouth, beholds not the 
King of Terrors on his path. Through the din and smoke of the 
mortal strife, he is drawn onward by the glittering eye of Fame, 
that wins him to destruction, as the deadly serpent is said to 
fascinate its prey. He that would die boldly and proudly in the 
presence of assembled thousands would shrink aghast from an 
unseen struggle with the last dread enemy of man. A desire for 
death, or even an indifference to life, is a moral disease, and is not 
consistent with our nature, in which the principle of self-preserva- 
tion is so deeply planted. Tlie fear of the grave may indeed be 
easily evaded, but never entirely overcome. The thirst of glory, 
and the consolations of religion do not make us friendly with 
death on its own account ; but render us proof against its terrora 
by filling our minds with more congenial images, and by present- 
ing us with glimpses of a paradise beyond the gloomy gratings of 
the tomb. And yet if we philosophically contemplate the relations 
of life and death, our horror of annihilation seems utterly unrea- 
sonable. It is as natural to die as it is to live. In fact, life 
itself is " a daily death." As far as yesterday is concerned, we 
are already dead. Literally speaking, we exist but in the present. 
In a few brief years both mind and body undergo as complete a 
revolution as the change from animal to vegetable existence. We 
are at last no more the same beings, than echoes are original 
sounds. We bear but a faint resemblance to our former selves. 
Had we dropped into the grave in our dawn of life, our childhood 
woiUd not have been more unequivocally dead than it now is. 
Our youth must also die, and next our manhood, and when old 
age, says Montaigne, is carried to the tomb, it is but an addition- 



112 THE NEW TEAR AXD THE OLD. 

al death. " Why," he continues, " should we so dread the last ? 
Our death is a part of the life of the universe" which exists by 
incessant change. Nothing is stationary, and change is a partial 
annihilation. We do but make room for other existences. Our 
bodies either turn into masses of animal life, or give vitality to 
green herbs and flowers. We look upon the death of our child- 
hood without fear and trembling. We do not lament that we 
were dead a century ago, and why should we grieve because a 
century hence we shall be in the same condition. We are shocked 
that the heavens should shine as brightly and men live as joyous- 
ly after our decease, as during our brief sojourn upon earth. 
But it was the same before our birth. No sign or change in 
nature heralded our advent. Of how little importance is the 
greatest individual to the world, and yet of how much importance 
is the humblest to himself ! 

It seems one of the many strange anomalies of the human 
mind, that it should be so eager to anticipate the future, and yet 
shrink back with such repugnance from that consummation to 
which our progress so inevitably leads. We hurry forward as if 
the end of life were all that we could desire. The vast number 
and the sociality of our fellow travellers make us forget the goal 
of our pilgrimage. If any single individual were to feel that he 
alone in the countless crowd were doomed to certain death, at a 
fixed period, however remote, he would look foi^ward with a feel- 
ing too hon-ible for words to paint. The uncertainty of each 
man's allotted time, and the community of our fate, make us less 
thoughtful and more contented. Though it is not precisely as 
the poet has observed, that 

" All men think all men mortal but themselves," 

yet each individual believes in his own good fortune, and trusts 
to enjoy a longer lease of life than most of his associates. He 
always flatters himself that he shall be the last called to the dread 



THE NEW TEAR AND THE OLD. 113 

account. He has so often escaped before, that he quells every 
fresh alarm with the hope of similar success. The idea of death, 
as I have already explained, is received with so much difficulty by 
those who are conscious of the strong impregnation of life 
through their whole system, that the most trivial objects may call 
off their attention from the subject. Such is the power of a 
happy imagination and a healthy frame. 

Were we embarked on a voyage to a hostile foreign shore, and 
knew ourselves condemned to be stripped, tortured, and hung by 
savage hands, we should think the longest passage too short, and 
curse the swiftness of our vessel. A few pleasant islands in our 
course would not drive away the anticipation of the last port. 
But as we travel towards the narrow house to lie down in darkness 
and corruption, we are impatient of a moment's delay, and the 
great object in life seems to be to shorten its duration. It is a 
happy thing, however, that the mind is thus strangely constituted, 
and that we are able to close our eyes against unpleasing prospects, 
and turn away our thoughts from the end of all things. 

There is no period of the life of man so interesting as its close. 
A birth occasions less excitement than a death. A new-born 
human being is rarely an object of particular interest to any por- 
tion of mankind, except to those who have introduced him to the 
world ; but the lowliest spirit that ever wore human clay is digni- 
fied in tlie eyes of aU men at the final horn-. Even the poor 
fleshly frame which once perhaps afforded food for merriment, or 
a mark for scorn's poisoned arrows, is then regarded with a pro- 
found and mysterious reverence. We enter the death-chamber 
of the rudest peasant with a slow and solemn step, as if we trod 
upon holy ground. A too abrupt or a too easy manner would 
seem a sacrilege. We stand near his simple coffin in religious 
silence, or speak in whispers, as if fearful of disturbing his awful 
slumber. AU ordinary and familiar sounds are like a mockery of 
the eternal sleeper. His cold clay is hallowed. The mightiest 



114 THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD. 

of earthly potentates would approach him with respect. As he 
lies in his silent state there is a strange power in his fixed and 
paUid lineaments. He is the representative of the majesty of 
death. 

The golden portals of palaces fly open at the approach of the 
King of Terrors, as freely as the shepherd's wicker gate. Nei- 
ther massy battlements, nor valorous guards, nor the power of the 
state, nor the prayers of the priesthood, nor the ingenuity of art, 
nor the magic of beauty, nor the might of genius, nor the holi- 
ness of virtue, can protect the domestic hearth from that general 
and relentless foe. His silent footstep giveth no warning. We 
know not when he may steal upon us. This uncertainty is an 
additional horror. We know when the trees are to wither and 
the flowers are to fade. We prepare for the approach of winter. 
But death has no stated season. He comes in youth and in age, 
in sickness and in health. He casts no shade before him. This 
mighty and mysterious visitor from an unknown world is more 
terrible than the simoom of the desert. He blasts the greenest 
landscape of Hfe at a single breath. Like a dread magician, he 
enters invisibly our most secret haunts, and strikes us to the 
"•round with his unseen wand. 

When the sense of our mortality comes heavily upon the heart, 
what a pitiful delusion is human life ! We look around us in this 
busy scene, and echo the exclamation of the preacher that "all is 
vanity !" At such a moment a film is removed from our mental 
vision, " a change comes over the spirit of our dream," and that 
which lately seemed serious and important, we discover to be 
vain and idle ; while all that once charmed or amused us becomes 
a mournful mockery. We gaze with pity and with wonder upon 
those who are still labouring under the same delusion from which 
we ourselves have awaked ; their laughter seems hysterical, and 
their merriment hollow. The feehng in some degree resembles, 
though it greatly exceeds it in intensity, the effect of closing 



THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD. 115 

the ears to the music of a ball room and watching the move- 
ments of the dancers. It is recorded of an impassioned Italian 
poet that he could never look upon such a scene, even with its 
musical accompaniments, without laughing and shuddering at the 
same moment. "With a similarly blended sentiment of the ludi- 
crous and the sad do we gaze upon Life's giddy whirl, when the 
golden mist of enchantment evaporates from the scene. 

But to return to the consideration of my more immediate sub- 
ject ; — let me not conclude without hailing the New Year, with 
a somewhat kinder greeting than it has yet received. I may not 
look upon it with the same aflfection as the old one, but it is not 
wholly unattractive. The thirst for novelty makes every New 
Year a welcome visitor to most men. It suggests fresh plans and 
inspires fresh hopes. Life and the world seem adapted to our 
impatience of stillness and monotony. The ever-flitting forms and 
hues of external nature, the endless variety of human faces and 
human character, and the phantasmagorial progression of events, 
are all ministrant to our taste for change. If I cannot on the 
whole be so enthusiastic in my welcome to the present year as in 
my farewell to the past one, let it be remembered that should I 
live another season its aspect and character will be changed, and 
like its predecessor, it will be hailed at parting with a thoughtful 
sigh. 



Q 2 



C 116 ] 



SOUNDS AT SEA. 

The weary sea is tranquil, and the breeze 

Hath sunk to sleep on its slow-heaving breast. 

All sounds have passed away, save such as please 

The ear of Night, who loves that music best 

The din of day would drown. — The wanderer's song. 

To whose sweet notes the mingled charms belong 

Of sadness linked to joy, — the breakers small 

(Like pebbled riDs) that round the vessel's bow 

A dream-like murmur make, — the splash and fall 

Of waters crisp, as rolling calm and slow. 

She laves alternately her shining sides, — 

The flap of sails that like white garments vast 

So idly hang on each gigantic mast, — 

The regular tread of him whose skill presides 

O'er the night-watch, and whose brief fitful word 

The ready helmsman echoes : these low sounds 

Are all that break the stillness that surrounds 

Our lonely dwelling on the dusky main. 

But yet the visionary soul is stirred. 

While fancy hears full many a far-off strain 

Float o'er the conscious sea ! — The scene and hour 

Control the spirit with mysterious power ; 

And wild unutterable thoughts arise. 

That make us yearn to pierce the starry skies I 



[ 117 ] 



STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 



I. 

I GAZE on thy sweet face. 

My lightly laughing boy I 
And charms no painter's hand could trace 

Behold in pride and joy, 
While pleasure almost turns to pain, 
(For human hearts may scarce sustain 

Such bhss without alloy,) 
Till tears too sweet for those who grieve 
Gush forth to chasten and i-elieve ! 
II. 

And e'en when sorrow's hour 

Brings gloom upon my soul. 
And shades o'er Life's dull landscape lour 

Like clouds that slowly roll 
Round solemn Twilight's dusky car, 
Thine image kindles as a star. 

To cheer me and console. 
And dreary thoughts and mournful dreams 
Soon pass like mist 'neath morning beams. 
III. 

For in that bright blue eye 

StiU glow the rays of bliss. 
Like lustre from an azure sky. 

Or realms more fair than this. 
Though vexed with worldly cares I roam. 
They shall not darken this dear home. 

Nor check the rapturous kiss 
That greets thy fresh and rosy charms 
When clasped within mine eager arms I 



118 STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 

IV. 

This heart indeed were cold 

To feeling's gentle sway. 
If while thy fairy form I fold. 

And those small fingers play 
Around my neck, thy face the while 
Upraised to catch the wonted smile, 

Mine eye could turn away. 
Or that calm sullen language wear 
That tells of sadness or despair. 



I have not darkly roved 

O'er Nature's fair domain. 
Nor gazed on sun-lit scenes unmoved 

In hours of mental pain. 
And far less could my soul disown 
The hght round sinless children thrown 

That ne'er can shine again 
When years bring guilt, and life no more 
Is bright and joyous as before. 



I see my own first hours. 

While lingering over thine ; 
I see thee pluck the fresh spring-flowers. 

An artless wreath to twine ; 
The same bright hues their beauty yields 
As those I sought in dewy fields. 

When kindred bliss was mine ; 
And while by memory thus beguiled, 
I almost deem myself a child. 



STANZAS TO MY CHILD, 119 

VII. 

How oft the phantom Care 

Hath swiftly passed away. 
As some night-bird that may not dare 

The morning holy ray. 
While half unconsciously mine eye 
Hath drank thy charms, tiU suddenly 

I felt the fond smile play 
Around my lips, nor could refrain. 
But kissed thee o'er and o'er again ! 



I've watched thy little wiles, 

A thousand times and more, 
And yet they win my ready smiles 

As freely as before ; 
Thy dear, familiar, prattled words 
Are sweeter than the songs of birds 

On some calm sun-lit shore ; — 
Each new grace brings as proud surprize 
As lights a star- discoverer's eyes. 

IX. 

E'en " thrice-told tales" are sweet 

That cheerful children tell. 
On sounds their lovely lips repeat 

The ear for aye could dwell ; 
Unlike all other things of earth 
Their winning ways and sinless mirth 

Still hold us as a spell ; 
In every mood, in every hour 
They bear the same enchanting power. 



120 STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 

X. 

Ah ! dearest child, if thou 

A child couldst thus remain, 
And I for ever gaze as now 

On one without a stain 
Of earthly guilt or earthly care, 
With heart as pure and form as fair 

As sainted spirits gain, 
Methinlcs e'en this drear world might seem 
A heaven as sweet as man could dream ! 

•XI. 

But mortal flowerets grow 

'Till all their bright tints fade. 
And thy maturer bloom must know 

The bleak world's tempest-shade ; — 
Thine eyes a father's fall shall trace. 
His form shall sink before thy face. 

And when thine heart hath paid 
Its tribute brief of natural tears, 
Thou'lt seek awhile what soothes and cheers. 

XII. 

As I now gaze on thee 

E'en thou perchance shall gaze 
On one whose smiles of guiltless glee 

The same proud bliss shall raise, 
'Till he to sterner manhood grown 
Shall see thee to the grave go down, 

And while thy frame decays 
Beneath the cold, damp, silent sod. 
Shall follow in the track thou'st trod. 



STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 121 

XIII. 

Alas ! how this dim scene 

Is fraught with change and death ! 
"What countless myriads here have been 

To breathe a moment's breath. 
Then sink beneath that mortal doom 
That makes the wide green earth a tomb. 

Its flowers a funeral wreath ; 
And oh ! what countless myriads more 
Shall rise and fall ere Time is o'er ! 

XIV. 

One after one we fill 

The darkly yawning grave ; 
On Time's vast ocean never still 

Thus wave succeedeth wave. 
And all that from the wreck of life. 
The change, the tumult and the strife. 

The happiest fate may save. 
Is but the memory of a dream, 
A name, whose glory is a gleam ! 

XV. 

But hence with thoughts like these, 

(The present still is ours !) 
They come like autumn's blighting breeze 

Through Summer's leafy bowers ; 
Thy glittering eye and sunny brow 
Are all my soul shall gaze on now ; 

And when the future lowers, 
I'll think of that celestial clime 
Where all things own eternal prime ! 

R 



122 STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 

XVI. 

The transitory gloom 

Is floating fast away ! 
I cannot long behold thv Ijloom 

And dream of dull decay ; 
And like a sun-burst on the scene 
Where April's fitful clouds have been 

Is joy's returning ray. 
While balm, is shed from fancy's wing 
Like odours waving spice-boughs fling. 

XVII. 

Oh, how that fair face glows ! 

How that small bosom heaves ! 
Those red lips tremble like the rose 

When light airs part the leaves ; 
A sudden laughter fiUs thine eye, 
And comes as if thou knew'st not why. 

As viewless zephyr weaves 
The dimples shining waters show — 
Like those thy cheeks are wearing now ! 



Oh ! spirit- gladdening sight ! 

Oh ! happiness divine ! 
To feel a father's sacred right. 

To call such cherub mine ! 
A humble name, and lowly state 
Have been, and stiU may be, my fate. 

Yet how can I repine 
At want of wealth, or fame, or power. 
While blest with tliis fair human flower I 



[ 123 



LORD BYRON'S OPINION OF POPE. 



Lord Byron had always a nervous horror of floating with the 
stream, and was never inclined to express any other opinions than 
those which he knew to be in direct opposition to the general 
judgment of mankind, more especially of his own contemporaries. 
It was this feeling that led him to undervalue Shakespeare and 
make Pope his idol. In the Pope and Bowles controversy Lord 
Bvron was anv thing but triumphant, notwithstanding the flippant 
dogmatism of his style, which presented a strong contrast to the 
moderate, candid, and argumentative productions of his opponent, 
who though a writer vastly inferior to Lord Byrou in the general 
powers of his mind, had certainly the advantage over him in a 
sober critical disquisition*. This was less owing tea deficiency of 
taste and judgment on the part of Byron than to a downright want 
of sincerity. With all his swaggering he must have been perfectly 
conscious that he was taking up the wrong side of the question, 
when he spoke of Pope as the greatest poet in the world. Mr. 
Bowles was strangely misrepresented and misunderstood, in this 
discussion, though he simply maintahied the theory of Warton, 
that images drawn from nature, human and external, are more 
poetical per se than those drawn from works of art and artificial 
manners. I have not a copy of Bowles's pamphlet in my posses- 
sion, and have not read it since the time of its first publication ; but 
1 well recollect the general tenor of its reasoning, and my surprise 
at the mistakes or wilful misapprehensions of Byron. It may seem 



• Some of Bowles's later pamphlets on the same subject were written in 
less amiable spirit. 

R 2 



124 LORD byron's opinion of pope. 

presumptuous to speak in this strain of so great a man. But very 
dull eyes may discover spots in the sun, and very ordinary persons 
may be alive to the faults of their superiors. I shall give a speci- 
men or two of his arguments. 

" I opposed," says he, " and will ever oppose the robbery of ruins from 
Athens, to instniot the English in sculpture ; but why did I do so ? The 
ri'i7is are as poetical in Piccadilly as Uiey were in the Piirthenon, but the 
Parllienon and its rocks are less so without them. Such is the poetry 
of art." 

To suppose these detached fragments of buildings, as poetical 
in a confined and crowded court in London, as in the place from 
which they Avere taken, surrounded by picturesque and classical 
scenes and associations, is manifestly erroneous. The same line 
of argument would prove that a boat high and dry in a dock-yard 
or in a carpenter's warehouse is as poetical an object as the same 
boat when filled with human beings, tossing on the stormy sea or 
sleeping by sunset on a glassy lake. Works of art are not poeti- 
cal per se, but as connected with external nature and human pas- 



" Mr. Bowles contends, a^^ain, tliat the pyramids of Egypt are poetical, 
because of ' the association with boundless deserts,' and that a ' pyramid 
of the same dimensions would not be sublime in Lincoln's Inn 1-ields ;' 
not so poetical certainly ; but lake away the pyramids, and what is the 
desert V 

The desert would still be poetical without the pyramids, but 
not so the pyramids without the desert. Mr. Bowles would 
readily admit that the taking away the pyramids would lessen 
the poetry of the desert, because the human associatmis suggested 
by works of art would add greatly to the interest of any scenery, 
however beautiful and poetical in itself. In the same way the 
ocean in a storm is a strikingly poetical object, but its poetry is 
heightened by the associations of danger and suffering connected 
with the sight of a ship. It is not the appearance of the mere 



LORD BYROn's opinion OP POPE. 125 

planks or the mechanical construction of the ship, but the pro- 
bable emotions and anxieties of those on board, and the uncer- 
tainty of their fate, that touches the heart and awakens the imagi- 
nation. 

" To the question wliether the description of a game of cards be as 
poetical, supposing the execution equal, as a description of a walk in a forest? 
it may be answered, that the materials are certainly not equal ; but that the 
artist who has rendered a game of cards poetical, is by far the greater of the 
two. But all this ordering of poets is purely arbitrary on d>e part of Mr. 
Bowles. There may or may not be, in fact, different orders of poetry ; 
but the poet is always ranked according to his execution, and not according 
to his branch of the art." 

Wlio does not see the fallacy of this ? Will any body main- 
tain that the best satire that was ever written is as poetical as 
the best epic poem, or entitles the author to the same rank in 
literature. He whose work is the most poetical is the best poet, 
and not he who exhibits the most skill in treating unpoetical 
subjects. Dryden's Absolem and Achitophel is as well handled, 
perhaps, as Milton's Paradise Lost ; but which production is the 
most poetical, and which author is the greatest poet? Is the 
author of the most excellent sonnet equal in rank to the author 
of the most excellent tragedy ? Certainly not. Dryden has said, 
that " an Heroic Poem, truly such, is undoubtedly the greatest 
work which the soul of man is capable to perforin." Could he 
have said this of an epigram without exciting a universal 
laugh* ? A poet who executes an inferior subject with uncom- 
mon skill is entitled to a place above him who executes a sublime 



* Dr. South, however, foolishly asserted tliat a perfect epigram is as difKcult 
as an Epic poem, and Pope very justly ridiculed him for it in the Dunciad. 
How many jMartials were in Pulteney lost! 
Else sure ^ollle bard to our eternal praise 
In twice ten thousand rhyming nights and days. 
Had reared the work the all that mortal can. 
And South beheld that masterpiece of man. 



12G LORD BYROn'S opinion of I'OPE. 

one in a mefliocre manner ; but when the execution is equal, the sub- 
ject decides the superiority. A lofty subject requires a greater 
grasp of intellect and a more vigorous imagination than a humble 
one, and therefore the author of the Paradise Lost or of the 
Tragedy of Macbeth would always rank above the author of the 
most poetical description of a game of cards that was ever written, 
because no human power could render it so eminently poetical as 
those two immortal productions. The card-game describer might 
be a cleverer man than Milton without a hundredth part of his 
genius. Lord Bvi'on, however, very strenuously maintains that 
" the poet who executes best is the highest, whatever his depart- 
ment*." And what is still more strange and inconsistent, after 
asserting that there are no " orders" in poetry, or that if there be, 
the poet is ranked by his execution not his subject, he elevates 
Pope above all other writers of verse on the ground of his being 
the best ethical poet, and ethical poetry being of the highest 
rankf. If Bentham's prose Ethics were put into good verse, they 



* A pig by Morland might be as well done as an angel by Raphael, but this 
would not make the former artist enlilled to the same rank amongst painters as 
the latter. 

f When Lord Byron on his death-bed sent for " an old and ugly witch," or 
after presenting a gold pin to a lady, intreated its return, because it was unlucky 
to give any thing witli a point, a man of an intellect inferior to the poet's might 
very reasonably smile at his superstition. Ilis poetical creed, if sincere, is indeed 
unaccountable; but it is more easy to reconcile ourselves to the belief, that he 
often expressed on poetical, as on many other subjects, not so much his own opi- 
nions as those that lie thought would most puzzle and surprize. His whole life 
seemed to be devoted to creating a setisation. He even made himself out a 
monster of iniquity, that he might become an object of wonder and speculation. 
His hatred of England and the English people, his scorn of mankind in general, 
his disbelief in virtue, and his contempt for fame, were all the grossest affectation, 
and had no real existence in his heart, as his conduct showed. He betrayed ou 
several occasions and in many ways an intense desire to attract and retain the 
attention of the English public — he was singularly affectionate and kind to all 
who came in contact with him— was always ready and had frequent reason to 
acknowledge the virtues of his friends or enemies — had many noble traits in his 
own character— and devoted the greater part of his life to the acquisition of a 
name ! The failure of his tragedies was the cause of excessive chagrin and 



LORD BYROn's opinion OF POPE. 127 

would, according to this decision, be finer poetry than the works 
of Homer, Shakespeare or Milton, 

Byron talks continually about Pope's faultlessness, forgetting 
what that elegant writer himself observes — 

" Wlioever thinks a faultless piece to see 
Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be;'' 



mortification, and though he always talked with apparent indifference of such of 
his poems as were cei tain of success, he could not help defending, with an un- 
easy and eager fondness, the less fortunate offspring of his brain. His transla- 
tion of Pulci and his " Hints from Horace," because every body else considered 
tiiem unworthy of his genius, and treated them with neglect, were always spo- 
ken of by him as liis best productions. It is curious to observe, that notwithstand- 
ing his pretended indifference to criticism, he was evidently very anxious to 
stand well with tl'.e leading critics. There is something not very creditable to his 
independence, and certainly very inconsistent with the open and vigorous 
straiglit-forwardness of his general clia.acter, in the almost servile attention which 
he paid to Gilford, a man who had very little in common with the Noble Bard. 
To the tail of almost every letter to JMurray he appended his respectful compli- 
ments to the Editor of the Quarterly, and always submitted his poems with ex- 
traordinary deference to that critic's judgment. In opposition to tliis I might be 
referred to his Enpiiish Bards and Scotch Jieviewers, as a proof of his literary 
fearlessness: but that was a youthful indiscretion, which he lived to repent. I 
make these remarks with no intention to depreciate the general manliness of his 
character, but to show that his anxiety to secure a favorable notice of iiis produc- 
tions made him condescend to a humility very foreign to his nature. IVotouly 
was Byron anxious to secure the praises of his critics, but he was thrown into 
an agony, by such errors of the press, as were likely to lay him open to 
their censure. That he would have hrihed, with money, " his Grandmother's 
Review, '1 he British," to praise him, is not very likely ; but it is amusing to learn 
from one of his letters, that so anxious was he, that his muse should not appear 
in a disadvantageous dress, that when he heard of sonie one having made an in- 
different translation of his JManfred into Italian, he immediately oHorcd him 
any sum of money that he expected to obtain by his project, if he would throw 
the translation into the fire, and promise not to meddle with his Lordship's 
poems for the future. Having ascertained, that the utmost the man could ex- 
pect for his version, was 200 francs, Lord Byron offered him that sum, if he would 
desist from publishing. 'I'he Italian however held out for more, and could not 
be brought to terms, untd Byron threatened to hoisewhip him. He at last took 
the 200 fiancs and gave up his manuscript, entering at the same time into a 
written engagement never to translate any more of the noble I'oet's works. I 
believe this is the first instance on record of a man having been paid not to trans- 
late a poem. The Italian seems to have been a ludicrous specimen of a merce- 
nary author, and pocketed both the compliment and the cash with eqaal coolness. 



128 LORD bykon's opinion op pope. 

and towards the conclusion of his letter, his liordship affirms that 
if any great national or natural convulsion could or should over- 
whelm Great Britain and sweep it from the kingdoms of the earth, 
and leave only a dead language, an Englishman anxious that the 
posterity of strangers should know that there had been such 
a thing as a British Epic and Tragedy, might wish for the pre- 
servation of Shakespeare and Milton ; but the surviving world 
would snatch Pope from the wreck, and let the rest sink with the 
people. Even the name of Byron, will not shelter the absurdity 
of this observation, or make me hesitate to pi-otest against so 
preposterous a conclusion. Amongst other strange things in this 
letter is his Lordship's assertion that " Cowpur is no Poet ;" 
which assertion is soon followed bv another, that Cowper's lines 
addressed to his Nurse, by no means one of his best perform- 
ances, are " eminently poetical and pathetic !" 

Pope has no doubt been greatly undervalued by the critics of 
the present day, though Lord Byron, who was jealous of the Lake 
School, and at once abused and imitated its productions, ran into 
the opposite extreme, and endeavored to bring such men as Words- 
worth and Southey into ridicule and contempt by invidious com- 
parisons. Pope was a very exquisite and admirable poet, and 
with considerable hesitation with reference to the rival claims of 
Dryden, may perhaps be said to be at the very head of the 
artificial school of poetry. But though he may be allowed to be 
the first in his peculiar walk, he must rank comparatively low in 
the higher department of his art. That lofty enthusiasm, that 
passionate admiration of external nature, and that profound know- 
ledge of the human heart which are so conspicuous in the dramas 
of the immortal Shakespeare, we should look for in vain amongst 
the condensed couplets and labored elegancies of Pope. At the 
same time it is not to be inferred that he has no enthusiasm, no 
sense of the charms of nature, nor insight into the human heart ; 
for he possesses all these qualities, in a certain degree ; but they 



LOUD BYROX'S OPINION OF POPE. 129 

are not equal in depth and intensity to the same qualities in the 
hio-hest order of poets, nor do they constitute the predominant 
characteristics of his mind. 

Perhaps the sound sense, the fine irony, the tact for personal 
ridicule or eulogy, and the intimate acquaintance with polite 
society and artificial habits, for which Pope was so remarkably 
distinguished, have led the generality of critics to overlook or 
undervalue the more purely poetical qualities which he certainly 
possessed, though in a less eminent degree. 

It is strange that Lord Byron and the other defenders of Pope, 
have not brought forward the various proofs which are to be found 
in his works of his power of description ; for Warton, Words- 
worth and Bowles have laid great stress on his palpable deficiency 
in this important qualification of a true poet. His translation of 
the Moon-light Scene in the Iliad is spoken of by Wordsworth 
with contempt, though a complimentary allusion is made to the 
" Windsor Forest." It is worth while quoting his remarks : — 

" It is remarkable that, excepting the Nocturnal Reverie of Lady 
Winchelsea, and a passage or two in the Windsor Forest of Po]ie, the poetry 
of the period intervening between the pubh'cation of Paradise Lost and the 
Seasons does not contain a single new image of external nature; and 
scarcely presents a familiar one from which it can be inferred that the eye of 
the poet had been steadily fixed upon his object, much less that his feelings 
had urged him to work upon it in the spirit of genuine imagination. To 
what a low state knowledge of the most obvious and important phenomena 
had sunk, is evident from the style in which Dryden had executed a descrip- 
tion of Night in one of his Tragedies, and Pope his translation of the 
celebrated Moon-liglit Scene in the Iliad. A blind man, in the habit of 
attending accurately to descriptions casually dropped from the lips of those 
around him, might easily depict their appearances with more truth. Dry- 
den's lines* are vague, bombastic and senseless ; those of Pope, thougli he 
had Homer to guide him, are throughout false and contradictoryf. The 

• Melmoth says that Pope's translation of this passage surpasses the original ! 
t The following is the passage alluded to by Wordsworth. Rymer regarded 
it with extatic admiration. 

" All tilings are hushed as Nature's self lay dead : 
The mountains seem to nod their drowsy head : 



130 LORD BYnON a OPINION 01' POPE. 

verses of Dryden, once highly celebrated, are forgotten ; those of Pope still 
ret:,in their hold upon public estimation — nay there is not a passage of 
descriptive poetry, v^hich at this day finds so many ardent admirers." 

Instead of supporting Pope on his strong ground of the " Wind- 
sor Forest," Lord Byron with his usual love of opposition confines 
himself wholly to a consideration of this Moon-light Scene, which 
he contends is full of truth and beauty. Now what can be more 
common-place and indistinct than such phrases and epithets as 
" refulgent lamp of night" — " sacred hght" — " the vivid planets 
roll" — " gild the glowing pole" — " a flood of gloiy," &c. &c. ? 
They are precisely of that description which one would expect to 
meet with in the verses of a school-boy, and present no clear 
picture to the mind. A living writer has done more justice to the 
same well known passage. I allude to Mr. Elton. Every reader 
who is at all versed in the elegant literature of the day, is familiar 
with the merits of that gentleman, whose translations of the poets 
of Greece and Rome are rarely denied an honorable place in a well 
selected library. Mere English scholars, unacquainted with the 
ori<J-inal, have often been heard to acknowledge, that Elton's trans- 
lations gave them a higher notion of the purity, simplicity and 
truth of Greek poetry than any other versions in our language. 
It is now almost universally admitted, that Pope, as a translator, 
is too ornate, and takes too many liberties with the venerable 
bhnd bard of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He has made an odd 
mixture of ancient simplicity and modern finery. The superiority 
of Cowper's translation of Homer to that of Pope, would be more 
apparent, if the poet of Olney had not been so fearful of falling 
into the errors of his immediate predecessor as to sin in a 
contrary and less popular extreme. His version is too studiously 



The little birds in dreams their songs repeat, 
And sleeping flowers beneath the night-dew sweat; 
E'en lust and envy sleep ; yet love denies 
Rest to my soul and slumber to my eyes." 



LORD BYROn's opinion OF POPE. 131 

bare. It cannot be denied that he has sometimes passed the 
limits of a poetical simplicity, and has fallen into a prosaic mean- 
ness. But he is not always so unfortunate, and no reader of true 
taste would hesitate to prefer his translation of the celebrated 
Moon-light Scene, to that of Pope. Surely there is something 
simple, natural, and, in a word, Homeric, in the following pas- 
sage, that it would be in vain to look for in the couplets of his 
predecessor. 

As when around the clear, bright moon, the stars 
Shine in full splendour, and tiie winds are hushed ; 
The groves, the mountain tops, the headland heights, 
Stand all apparent : not a vapour streaks 
The boundless blue ; but ether, opened wide. 
All glitters, and the shepherd's heart is cheered. 

This is incomparably better than the stuff in Pope, about " con- 
scious sivains" " eyeing the blue vault," and " blessing the useful* 
light." Elton's translations have often much simplicity of Cow- 
per's, and though in the same passage, he is, perhaps, less suc- 
cessful than him, his version has far more nature than Pope's. 

As beautiful the stars shine out in heaven 
Around the splendid moon, no breath of wind 
Ruffling the c-alin blue ether ; cleared from mist 
The beacon hill-tops, crags and forest dells 
Emerge in light ; the immeasurable sky 
Breaks from above and opens on the gaze ; 
The multitude of stars are seen at once 
Full sparkling, and the shepherd looking up 
Feels gladdened at his heart. 

The lines, however, with which Pope follows up this passage 
are very exquisite : 

The long reflections of the distant fires 

Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires ; 



* This is quite a Utilitaiian epithet \ 
s 2 



132 LORD bykon's opinion of popk. 

A thousand piles the dusky horrors gild, 
And shoot a shady lustre o'er the field. 
Full fifty p;uards each flaming pile attend, 
Whose umbered arms by fits thick flashes send ; 
Loud neigh the coursers o'er their heaps of corn, 
And ardent warriors wait the rising morn . 

While upon this subject, I cannot refrain from further quota- 
tions, and as Pope's descriptive powers have never yet received 
that attention which they deserve, I shall lay a few brief speci- 
mens before the reader. 

See ; from the brake the ichirring pheasant springs. 
And mounts exulting on triumphant wings ; 
Short is his joy ; he feels tiie fiery wound, 
Flutters in blood and panting beats the ground. 
Ah ! what avail his glossy varying dyes, 
His purple crest and scarlet circled eyes, 
The vivid green his shining pinnies nn/'old, 
His painted wings and bi^east that flames with gold* ? 

With slaughtering gun th' unwearied fowler roves. 
When frosts have whitened all the naked groves ; 
Where doves in flocks the leafless trees d'ershude, 
And lonely icoodcocks haunt the xcatery glade. 
He lifts the tube, and levels with his eye : 
Straight a short thunder breaks the frozen sky : 
Oft as in airy rings they skim the heath 
The clamorous lapwings feel the leaden death ; 
Oft as the mounting larks their notes prepare, 
They fall, and leave their little lives in air ! 

Far as creation's ample range extends, 
The scale of sensual mental power ascends : 
Mark how it mounts to man's imperial race, 
From the green myriads in the peopled grass ; 



* This description, however, reminds us a little too much of Thomas Paine's 
celebrated sarcasm— Afr. Burke pities the plumage, but neglects the dying bird. 
Pope rather injudicious^ly draws off our attention from the bird's sufferings to 
make us admire its feathers. The fourth line is perfect. 



LORD BYRON's opinion OT POl'K. 133 

What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme, 
The moles dim curtain, and the li/nx^ btain ; 
Of smell, the headlong lioness between, 
And hound sagacious on the tainted greeti ; 
Of hearing, from the life that fills the fiood, 
To that ivhich icarbles through the vernal wood! 
The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine ! 
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line. 

These passages, (to which could be added many others of equal 
excellence from the same writer,) are highly picturesque, and 
ought to make the Lake poets treat the name of Pope with a little 
more respect. They as extravagantly depreciate his powers as 
Lord Byron overrated them. As I have quoted Wordsworth's 
allusion to the Nocturnal Reverie of the Countess of Winchelsea, 
and as that poem is not likely to be familiar to many of my readers, 
I will introduce a short extract from it. 

" When darkened groves their softest shadows wear, 
And falling ivaters we distinctlj/ hear : 
When through the gloom more venerable shows 
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose : 
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal, 
And swelling hay-cocks thicken up the vale : 
When the loosed horse, noio, us his pasture leads, 
Conies sloioli/ grazing through the adjoining meads, 
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear. 
Till torn-up forage in his teeth ice hear : t^c. c'jc." 

"Wordsworth in the following night-scene, taken from one of 
his sonnets, appears to have had the natural and striking images 
contained in the last four lines of the passage just extracted, very 
strongly in his mind. 

•' Calm is all nature as a resting wheel ; 
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass ; 
The horse alone, seen dimly us I pass, 
Is cropping audibly his later nieul.'' 



134 LORD Byron's opinion of pope. 

Hurdis, in his Favorite Village, has also a similar description ; — 

" The grazing ox 
His dewy supper from the savoury herbs 
Audibly gathering.'" 

Wordsworth abounds in natural images of admirable truth and 
beauty, which linked as they usually are to lofty and philosophical 
thoughts, form some of the most delightful poetry in the lan- 
guage. Here is a companion picture to Pope's " lonely wood- 
cocks." It is from one of Wordsworth's juvenile productions. 

" Sweet are the sounds that mingle from afar, 
Heard by calm lakes, as peeps the folding star, 
W/iere the duck dabbles mid the rustling sedge, 
And feeding pikes start from the water's edge, 
Or the swan stirs the reeds, his neck and bill 
Wetting, that drip upon the water still; 
And heron, as resounds the trodden shore 
Shoots upward, darting his long neck before." 

The duck dahhling in the above passage reminds me of a ludi- 
crous but very descriptive line of Southey's in a Sonnet to a 
Goose : — 

" Or waddle wide, tcithjiut and flabby foet, 
Over some Cambrian mountain's plashy moor." 



[ 135 ] 
SONNET. 

SCENE ON THE GANGES. 

The shades of evening veil the lofty spires 
Of proud Benares' fanes ! A thickening haze 
Hangs o'er the stream. The weary hoatmen raise 
Along the dusky shore their crimson fires. 
That tinge the circling groups. Now hope inspires 
Yon Hindoo maid, whose heart true passion sways. 
To launch on Gunga's flood the ghmmering rays 
Of Love's frail lamp, — but, lo ! the light expires ! 
Alas ! what sudden sorrow fills her breast ! 
No charm of life remains. Her tears deplore 
An absent lover's doom, and never more 
Shall hope's sweet vision yield her spirit rest ! 
The cold wave quenched the flame — an omen dread 
The maiden dares not question ; — he is dead ! 



SONNET. 
Lady ! if from my young, but clouded brow. 
The light of rapture fade so fitfully — 
If the mild lustre of thy sweet blue eye 
Awake no lasting joy, — Oh ! do not Thou, 
Like the gay throng, disdain the mourner's woe. 
Or deem his bosom cold ! — Should the deep sigh 
Seem to the voice of bliss unmeet reply — 
Oh ! bear with one whose darkened path below 
The Tempest-fiend hath crossed ! Tlie blast of doom 
Scatters the ripening bud, the full-blown flower 
Of Hope and Joy, nor leaves one living bloom. 
Save Love's wild evergreen, that dares its power. 
And clings to this lone heart, young Pleasure's tomb. 
Like the fond ivy on the ruined tower ! 
1822. 



[ 13G J 



aMORNING. 

I. 

Behold glad Nature's triumph ! Lo, the sun 
Hath burst the pall of night, and o'er the earth 
Reviving radiance scattered. Sleep hath done 
Her death-resembling reign, and thoughts have birth 
That thrill the grateful heart with holy mirth : 
While fresh as flowers that deck the dewj'^ ground 
Gay Fancy's bright-hued images abound. 
And mortals feel the glory and the worth 
Of that dear boon — existence ; — all around 
Unnumbered charms arise in every sight and sound ! 

II. 

The scene is steeped in beauty — and my soul. 
No longer Hngering in the gloom of care. 
Doth greet Creation's smile. The gray clouds roll 
E'en from the mountain peaks and melt in air ! 
The landscape looks an Eden ! Who could wear 
The frown of sorrow now ? This glorious hour 
Reveals the ruling God ! The heavens are bare ! 
Each sunny stream, and blossom-mantled bower 
Breathes of pervading love, and proves the Power 
That spoke him into life, hath bless'd Man's earthly dower » 



[ 137 ] 



EVENING. 

I. 
Oh ! sweet is the hour 

When low in the west. 
The sun gilds the bower 

Where fond lovers rest. 
Then gorgeously bright. 

Beneath the blue stream. 
In garments of light, 

Departs like a dream ! 

II. 

Oh ! sweet and serene 

The spell that beguiles, 
When night's gentle queen 

More tenderly smiles ! 
The boldest are coy — 

The wildest are grave — 
The sad feel a joy 

Loud mirth never gave ! 



The spirits of love. 

To hallow the time. 
From regions above 

PQur music sublime ; 
Tlieir harmonies cheer 

The mystical night. 
And steal on the ear 

Of dreaming dehght ! 



L 138 ] 

SONNET— TO NETLEY ABBEY. 
Romantic Ruin ! who could gaze on thee 
Untouched by tender thoughts, and ghmmering dreams 
Of long- departed years ? Lo ! nature seems 
Accordant with thy silent majesty ! 
The far blue hills — the bright reposing sea — 
The lonely forest — the meandering streams — 
The gorgeous summer sun, whose farewell beams 
Illume thine ivied halls, and tinge each tree 
Whose green arms round thee cling — the balmy air — 
The stainless vault above, that cloud or storm 
'Tis hard to deem will ever more deform — 
The season's countless graces, — all appear 
To thy calm beauty ministrant, and form 
A scene to peace and meditation dear ! 



SONNET— SUNSET. 
The summer sun had set, — the blue mist sailed 
Along the twihght lake, — no sounds arose. 
Save such as hallow Nature's sweet repose. 
And charm the ear of Peace. Young Zephyr hailed 
The trembling Echo, — o'er the lonely grove 
The Night's melodious bard, sad Philomel, 
A plaintive music breathed, — the soft notes fell 
Like the low-whispered vows of timid love ! 
I paused awhile, entranced, and such sweet dreams 
As haunt the pensive soul — intensely fraught 
With sacred incommunicable thought. 
And silent bliss profound — with fitful gleams. 
Caught from the memory of departed years. 
Flashed on my mind, and woke luxurious tears. 



[ 139 ] 



MEN OF THE WORLD. 



Swift had a friend on whose success in life he could not always look with com- 
placency— " Staflbrd (a merchant)," said he, "is worth a plum, and is now 
lending the Government £40,000, yet we were educated together at the same 
school and university." 

Budgell in the Spectator (No. 353) thus describes these school-fellows;— 
" One of them was not only thought an impenetrable blockhead at school, but still 
maintained his reputation at the university ; the other was the pride of his master 
and the most celebrated person in the college of which he was a member. The 
man of genius is at present buried in a country parsonage of eightscore pounds a 
year ; while the other with the bare abilities of a common scrivener has got an 
estate of above an hundred thousand pounds." 

Chahner's Preface to the Rambler. 



There is a great difference between the power of giving good 
advice and the abiUty to act upon it. Theoretical wisdom is, per- 
haps, rarely associated with practical wisdom ; and we often find 
that men of no talent whatever contrive to pass through life with 
credit and propriety, under the guidance of a kind of instinct. 
These are the persons who seem to stumble by mere good luck 
upon the philosopher's stone. In the commerce of life everything 
they touch seems to turn into gold. 

We are apt to place the greatest confidence in the advice of the 
successful and none at all in that of the unprosperous, as if fortune 
never favoured fools nor neglected the wise. A man may have 
more intellect than does him good, for it tempts him to meditate 
and to compare when he should act with rapidity and decision ; 
and by trusting too much to his own sagacity and too little to 
fortune, he often loses many a golden opportunity, that is like a 
prize in the lottery to his less briUiant competitors. It is not the 
men of thought but the men of action who are best fitted to push 
T 2 



140 MEN OP THE WORLD. 

their way upwards in the world. The Hamlets or philosophical 
speculators are out of their element in the crowd. They are wise 
enough as reflecting observers, but the moment they descend from 
their solitary elevation and mingle with the thick throng of their 
fellow- creatures, there is a sad discrepancy between their dignity 
as teachers and their conduct as actors. Their wisdom in busy 
life evaporates in words. They talk like sages, but they act like 
fools. There is an essential difference between those qualities 
that are necessary for success in the world, and those that are re- 
quired in the closet. Bacon was the wisest of human beings in 
his quiet study, but when he entered the wide and noisy theatre 
of life, he sometimes conducted himself in a way of which he 
could have admirably pointed out the impropriety in a moral essay. 
He knew as well as any man that honesty is the best policy, but 
he did not always act as if he thought so. The fine intellect of 
Addison could trace with subtlety and truth all the proprieties 
of social and of public life, but he was himself deplorably ineffi- 
cient both as a companion and as a statesman. A more delicate 
and accurate observer of human life than the poet Cowper, is not 
often met with, though he was absolutely incapable of turning his 
knowledge and good sense to a practical account, and when he 
came to act for himself, was as helpless and dependent as a child. 
The excellent author of the Wealth of Nations, could not manage 
the economy of his own house. 

People who have sought the advice of successful men of the 
world, have often experienced a feeling of surprise and disappoint- 
ment when Ustening to their common-place maxims and weak 
and barren observations. There is very frequently the same 
discrepancy, though in the opposite extreme, between the words 
and the actions of prosperous men of the world that I have noticed 
in the case of unsuccessful men of wisdom. The former talk like 
fools, but they act like men of sense. The reverse is the case with 
the latter. The thinkers may safely direct the movements of 



MEN OP TITE WORLD. 141 

other men, but they do not seem peculiarly fitted to direct their 
own. 

They who bask in the sunshine of prosperity, are generally in- 
clined to be so ungrateful to fortune, as to attribute all their suc- 
cess to their own exertions, and to season their pity for their less 
successful friends with some degree of contempt. In the great 
majority of cases nothing can be more I'idiculous and unjust. In 
the list of the prosperous, there are very few indeed, who owe 
their advancement to talent and sagacity alone. The majority 
must attribute their rise to a combination of industry, prudence 
and good fortune, and there are many who are still more indebt- 
ed to the lucky accidents of life than to their own character or 
conduct. 

Perhaps not only the higher intellectual gifts, but even the 
finer moral emotions are an incumbrance to the fortune-hunter. 
A gentle disposition and extreme frankness and generosity, 
have been the ruin, in a worldly sense, of many a noble spirit. 
There is a degree of cautiousness and mistrust, and a certain in- 
sensibility and sternness, that seem essential to the man who has 
to bustle through the world, and secure his own interests. He 
cannot turn aside, and indulge in generous sympathies, without 
neglecting, in some measure, his own affairs. It is like a pedes- 
trian's progress through a crowded street. He cannot pause for 
a moment, or look to the right or left, without increasing his own 
obstructions. When time and business press hard upon him, the 
cry of affliction on the road-side is unheeded and forgotten. He 
acquires a habit of indifference to all but the one thing needful — 
his own success. 

I shall not here speak of those by-ways to success in life 
which require only a large share of hypocrisy and meanness ; 
nor of those insinuating manners and frivolous accomplishments 
which are so often better rewarded than worth or genius ; nor of 
the arts by which a brazen-faced adventurer, sometimes thi'ows a 



142 MEN OF THE WOULD. 

modest and meritorious rival into the shade. Nor shall I proceed 
to show how great a drawback is a noble sincerity in the com- 
merce of the world. The memorable scene between Gil Bias and 
the Archbishop of Toledo, is daily and nightly re-acted on the 
great stage of life. I cannot enter upon minute particulars, or 
touch upon all the numerous branches of my subject, without 
exceeding the limits I have proposed to myself in the present 
essay. 

Perhaps a knowledge of the world, in the ordinary acceptation 
of the phrase, may mean nothing more than a knowledge of con- 
ventionalisms, or a famiUarity with the forms and ceremonials of 
society. This, of course, is of easy acquisition when the mind is 
once bent upon the task. The practice of the small proprieties of 
life to a congenial spirit, soon ceases to be a study ; it rapidly be- 
comes a mere habit, or an untroubled and unerring instinct. This 
is always the case when there is no sedentary labour by the mid- 
nio-ht lamp to produce an ungainly stoop in the shoulders, and a 
conscious defect of grace and pliancy in the limbs ; and when there 
is no abstract thought or poetic vision to dissipate the attention, 
and blind us to the trivial realities that are passing immediately 
around us. Some degree of vanity and a perfect self-possession 
are absolutely essential ; but high intellect is only an obstruction. 
Men whose heads are little better than a pin's, have rendered 
themselves extremely acceptable in well-dressed circles. There 
are some who seem bom for the boudoir and the ball-room, 
while others are as Httle fitted for fashionable society, as a fish is 
for the open air and the dry land. They who are more familiar 
with books than with men, cannot look calm and pleased when 
their souls are inwardly perplexed. The almost venial hypocrisy 
of politeness, is the more criminal and disgusting in their judg- 
ment, on account of its difficulty to themselves and the provoking 
ease with which it appears to be adopted by others. The loqua- 
city of the forward, the effeminate affectation of the foppish, and 



MEN OP THE WORLD, 143 

the sententiousness of shallow gravity, excite a feeling of con- 
tempt and weariness that they have neither the skiU nor the in- 
clination to conceal. 

A recluse philosopher is unable to return a simple salutation 
without betraying his awkwardness and uneasiness to the quick eye 
of a man of the world. He exhibits a ludicrous mixture of Inimi- 
lity and pride. He is indignant at the assurance of others, and is 
mortified at his own timidity. He is vexed that he should suffer 
those whom he feels to be his inferiors to enjoy a temporary 
superiority. He is troubled that they should be able to trouble 
him, and ashamed that they should make him ashamed. Such a 
man, when he enters into society, brings aU his pride, but leaves 
his vanity behind him. Pride allows our wounds to remain ex- 
posed, and makes them doubly irritable ; but vanity, as Sancho says 
of sleep, seems to cover a man all over as with a cloak. A con- 
templative spirit cannot concentrate its attention on minute and 
uninteresting ceremonials, and a sense of unfitness for society 
makes the most ordinary of its duties a painful task. There are 
some authors who would rather write a quarto volume in praise of 
woman, than hand a fashionable lady to her chair. 

The foolish and formal conversation of polite life is naturally 
uninteresting to the retired scholar ; but it would, perhaps, be less 
objectionable if he thought he could take a share in it with any 
degree of credit. He has not the feeling of calm and unmixed 
contempt ; there is envy and irritation in his heart. He cannot 
despise his fellow-creatures, nor be wholly indifferent to their 
good opinion. Whatever he may think of their manners and 
conversation, his uneasiness evinces that he does not feel altogether 
above or independent of them. No man likes to seem unfit for 
the company he is in. At Rome every man would be a Roman. 

Of the class of proud and sensitive men of thought, the poet 
Cowper was a striking example, and he has described their feehngs 
with great truth and vivacity : — 



144 MEN OF THE WORLD. 

I \nty bashful men, who feel the pain 
Of fancied scorn and undeserved disdain, 
And bear the marks upon a blushing face 
Of needless shame and self-imposed disgrace. 
Our sensibilities are so acute 
The fear of being silent makes us mute, 
* * * * * # 

The visit paid, with ecstacy we come 
As from a seven years' transportation home, 
And there resume an imembarrassed brow. 
Recovering what we lost we know not how. 
The faculties that seemed reduced to nought, 
Expression and the privilege of thought. 

There is in this City of Palaces* more than one example of the 
unfitness of the literary character for general society. A particular 
friend of my own, who is fonder of the study than the drawing- 
room, when he enters a social circle in which there are faces not 
thoroughly familiar to him, is like a wanderer in a foreign scene. 
His strange blunders are often exceedingly offensive to the feelings 
and prejudices of those whom he is most desirous to ohUge. 
He fails in exact proportion to his anxiety for success. If he 
were walking in his own garden or sitting in his own domestic 
circle, he could be as self-possessed and common-place a person 
as any in the world. He might remain for hours in a state of 
mental ease or inaction, and even " whistle for want of thought ;" 
but the moment that he enters a new scene, and feels a little out 
of his element, his intellectual faculties commence a rapid chaotic 
dance. It is in vain that he attempts to control or guide a 
single thought ; the reason has no longer sovereign sway and 
masterdom. His brain resembles the state of a ship in the last 
extremity, when the sailors, laughing at all authority, leave every- 
thing to fate, and indulge themselves in a mad and melancholy 
merriment. In this state of temporary delirium, a man can hardly 



• Calcutta— where this article was written. 



MEN OF THE WORLD. 145 

be thought responsible for his own actions. My friend, with all 
his defects, is so genuinely candid and kind-hearted, that he will 
excuse the liberty I am taking with his character, in using it as 
an illustration, and I know well that he will readily acknowledge 
the truth of the portrait. He will not be displeased should others 
also recognize it, for it forms an indirect apology that may set him 
right with many who may have imagined that he had intention- 
ally offended them. I will even mention a few instances of his 
strange confusion and forgetfulness. When he was preparing to 
leave England for this country, he called at the India House for 
a ' shipping ordei"' for himself and family. He found himself 
suddenly in a crowd of gay young clerks, in whose presence he 
was somewhat abruptly questioned as to the number and names 
of his children. He had only three of those inestimable treasures ; 
but there was such an instantaneous anarchy in his brain, that 
he was obliged to confess he could not answer the question. 
Every one stared at him with astonishment, and set him down 
for a madman. He sneaked painfully out of the room, and had 
scarcely closed the door, when his memory was as clear and 
precise as ever. I shall venture upon another anecdote, equally 
characteristic. He received some time ago a pair of marriage 
tickets. He was eager to acknowledge the compliment, and pay 
his grateful respects to the young bride ; but bad health, official 
duties, obliviousness, and a spirit of procrastination, all combined 
to occasion the postponement of his visit. He called at last, and 
experienced his usual stultification. In the presence of a number 
of visitors, all of whose eyes were intently fixed upon him, he 
observed that he was glad to see so many persons present, as it 
convinced him that the honeymoon was over, and that he had not 
called earlier than delicacy and custom permitted. He had forgot- 
ten that a whole year had slipped away since he had received his 
ticket ! There was a general laugh, and the lady goodhumouredly 
sent for a fine strapping baby, as a still stronger proof that his 



146 MEN OF THE WORLD. 

visit was perfectly well-timed. I cannot i-esist the temptation to 
add one more example of his occasional perplexities. He was 
acquainted with two brothers, of whom the one was a literary man 
and the other a merchant. The latter died, and a few months 
after that event, my friend met the survivor. He at once con- 
founded the dead man with the living, and in the course of con- 
versation embraced an opportunity to express his regret to the 
supposed merchant at the deplorably bad success of his poor bro- 
ther's published poems, adding in the freedom and plenitude of 
his confidence, a candid opinion (which could not now, he ob- 
served, reach the ears of the person referred to, or give him a 
moment's pain) that in devoting himself to literature he had sadly 
mistaken the nature of his own powers. My unhappy friend 
had hardly let fall the last word of his unconscious jest, when a 
light flashed across his brain, and he saw his error. The scene 
that ensued baffles all description. It would be difficult to say 
which of the two was the most severely vexed — the vain and irri- 
table poetaster or the dreaming blunderer. I could easily multiply 
instances of my friend's excessive abstraction and laughable for- 
getfulness ; but these are enough for my purpose. I will only 
add that he hardly ever addresses any person by his right name, 
and if suddenly called upon to introduce a friend to a strange 
circle, would be sure to make some extraordinary blunder, the 
absurdity of which would stare him in the face the moment after. 
He is sometimes so vexed by his almost incredible mistakes, that 
he vows in his despair he will never again attempt any intercourse 
with general society, however numerous or pressing may be the 
invitations of his friends. He knows too well, he says, that if any 
subject is especially unpleasing to his hearers, he is sure, by some 
horrible fatality, to bring it prominently forward ; and if he at- 
tempts a compliment, he is ruined for ever. With the strongest 
ambition to be thought both sensible and good-natured, he 
often acts as if he were either a perfect idiot, or one of the most 
malicious of human beinsfs. 



MEN OF THE WORLD. 147 

The axioms most familiar to men of the world, are passed from 
one tongue to another without much reflection. They are merely 
parroted. Some critics have thought that the advice which Polo- 
nius, in the tragedy of Hamlet, gives his son, on his going abroad, 
exhibits a degree of wisdom wholly inconsistent with the general 
character of that weak and foolish old man. But in this case, as 
in most others of a similar nature, we find, on closer considera- 
tion, that what may seem at the first glance an error or oversight 
of Shakespeare's, is only another illustration of his accurate know- 
ledge of human life. The precepts which the old man desires to 
fix in the mind of Laertes, are just such as he might have heard a 
hundred thousand times in his long passage through the world. 
They are not brought out from the depths of his own soul, They 
have only fastened themselves on his memoiy, and are much 
nearer to his tongue than to his heart. No one is surprised at 
the innumerable wise saws and proverbial phrases that issue from 
the lips of the most silly and ignorant old women in aU ranks of 
life, in town and country, in cottages and in courts. In the con- 
versation of the weakest-minded persons, we often find, as in 
that of Polonius, both " matter and impertinency mixed." His 
advice is not that of a philosopher, but of a courtier and man of 
the world. He echoes the common wisdom of his associates. 

" Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice : 

Take each man's censure*, but reserve thy jiulgment." 

He is indebted to his court education for this mean and heartless 
maxim. To listen eagerly to the communications of others, and 
to conceal his own thoughts, is the first lesson that a Courtier learns. 
Let us quote another specimen of his paternal admonitions. 

" Neither a borrower nor a lender be : 
For loan oft loses both itself and friend ; 
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry." 

* Opinion. 
u 2 



148 MEN OF THE AVORLD. 

Polonius might have picked up this marvellous scrap of pru- 
dence in some petty tradesman's shop ; not, however, in a pawn- 
broker's, for the sign of which it would form a very forbidding 
motto. It is similar in tone to the maxims of Poor Richard*. 
There are a few precepts in the parting advice of Polonius of a 
somewhat higher character ; but they are only such as float about 
the world, and are repeated on occasion by all well-intentioned 
people. They are not of that high and original cast which Shakes- 
peare would have put into the mouth of Hamlet, or any other 
thoughtful and noble-hearted personage. 

It seems paradoxical to affirm, that men who are out of the 
world know more of the philosophy of its movements than those 
who are in it ; but it is nevertheless perfectly true, and easily 
accounted for. The busy man is so rapidly whirled about in the 
vast machine, that he has not leisure to observe its motion. An 
observer stationed on a hill that overlooks a battle, can see more 
distinctly the operations of either army than the combatants them- 
selves. They who have attained success by mere good fortune, 
are particularly iU- fitted to direct and counsel others who are strug- 
gling through the labyrinths of life. A shrewd observer, who 
has touched the rocks, is a better pilot than he who has passed 
through a difficult channel in ignorance of its dangers. 

The extent of a person's knowledge of mankind is not to be 
calculated by the number of his years. The old, indeed, are 
always wise in their own estimation, and eagerly volunteer 
advice, which is not in all cases as eagerly received. The 
stale preparatory sentence of " Wlien you have come to my 
years, &;c." is occasionally a prologue to the wearisome farce 
of second childhood. A Latin proverb says, that " experience 
teacheth." It sometimes does so, but not always. Experience 



* " Wealt'n, as clearly shewn in the preface of our old Pennsylvanian Alma- 
nack, entitled ' Poor Kichard Improved.' Written by Dr. Franklin." 



MEN OF THE WORLD. 149 

cannot confer natural sagacity, and without that it is nearly- 
useless. It is said to be an axiom in natural history, that a cat 
wiU never tread again the road on which it has been beaten ; but 
this has been disproved in a thousand experiments. It is the 
same with mankind. A weak-minded man, let his years be few 
or numerous, will no sooner be extricated from a sillv scrape, 
than he will faU again into the same difficulty in the very same 
way. Nothing is more common than for old women (of either 
sex) to shake with a solemn gravity their thin grey hairs, as if 
they covered a repository of gathered wisdom, when perchance 
some clear and lively head upon younger shoulders has fifty 
times the knowledge with less than half the pretension. We are 
not always wise in proportion to our opportunities of acquiring 
wisdom, but according to the shrewdness and activity of our ob- 
servation. Nor is a man's fortune in all cases an unequivocal 
criterion of the character of his intellect* or his knowledge of the 
world. Men in business acquire a habit of guarding themselves 
very carefully against the arts of those with whom they are brought 
in contact in their commercial transactions ; but they are, perhaps, 
better versed in goods and securities than in the human heart. 
They wisely trust a great deal more to law papers, than to " the 
human face divine," or any of those indications of character which 
are so unerringly perused by a profound observer. A great 
dramatic poet can lift the curtain of the human heart ; but mere 
men of business must act always in the dark, and, taking it for 
granted that every individual, whatever his ostensible character, 
may be a secret villain, they will have no transactions with their 
fellow-creatures, until they have made " assurance double sure," 
and secured themselves from the possibility of roguery and impo- 
sition. They carry this habit of caution and mistrustfulness to 



* There are some few professions, indeed, in whicii success is a pretty certain 
indication of learning or of genius. 



150 MEN Ol" THE WORLD. 

such a melancholy extreme, that they will hardly lend a guinea to 
a father or a brother without a regular receipt. They judge of 
all mankind by a few wretched exceptions. Lawyers have a similar 
tendency to form partial and unfavorable opinions of their fellow- 
creatures ; because they come in contact with the worst specimens 
of humanity, and see more of the dark side of life than other 
men. Of all classes of men, pei'haps the members of the medical 
profession have the best opportunity of forming a fair and ac- 
curate judgment of mankind in general, and it is gratifying to 
know that none have a higher opinion of human nature. 

It is observable, that men are very much disposed to " make 
themselves the measure of mankind," or, in other words, when 
they paint their fellow-creatures, to dip their brush in the colours 
of their own heart. 

" All seems infected tliat tlie infected spy, 
As all seems yellow to tlie jaundiced eye." 

On the other hand, a frank and noble spirit observes the world 
by the light of its own nature ; — and indeed all who have studied 
mankind without prejudice or partiality, and with a wide and 
libe'ral observation, have felt that man is not altogether unworthy 
of being formed after the image of his Maker. 

Though I have alluded to the tendency of some particular pro- 
fessions to indurate the heart and limit or warp the judgment, 
I should be sorry, indeed, if the remarks that I have ventured 
upon this subject, should be regarded as an avowal of hostihty 
towards any class whatever of my fellow- creatures. I should be 
guUty of a gross absurdity and injustice if I did not readily admit, 
that intellect and virtue are not confined to one class or excluded 
from another. Men are, generally speaking, very much the crea- 
tures of circumstance ; but there is no condition of life, in which 
the soul has not sometimes asserted her independence of all adven- 
titious distinctions ; and there is no trade or profession, in which 
we do not meet with men who are an honour to human nature. 



[ 151 ] 
TWO LANDSCAPES. 

ENGLISH AND INDIAN. 

I STOOD upon an English hill. 

And saw the far meandering rill, 

A vein of liquid silver, run 

Sparkling in the summer sun ; 

While adown that green hill's side, 

And along the valley wide. 

Sheep, like small clouds touched with light, 

Or like little breakers bright 

Sprinkled o'er a smiling sea. 

Seemed to float at liberty. 

Scattered all around were seen 

White cots on the meadows green. 

Open to the sky and breeze. 

Or peeping through the sheltering trees. 

On rustic gateways, loosely swung. 

Laughing children idly hung : 

Oft their glad shouts, shrill and clear. 

Came upon the startled ear. 

Blended with the tremulous bleat 

Of truant lambs, or voices sweet 

Of birds that take us by surprise. 

And mock the quickly-searching eyes. 

Nearer sat a bright-haired boy. 
Whistling with a thoughtless joy ; 
A shepherd's crook was in his hand, 
Emblem of a mild command ; 
And upon his rounded cheek 
Were hues that ripened apples streak. 



152 TWO LANDSCAPES. 

Disease, nor pain, nor sorrowing 
Touched that small Arcadian king. 
His sinless subjects wandered free — 
Confusion without anarchy. 
Happier he upon his throne. 
The breezy hill — though all alone — 
Than the grandest monarchs proud 
Who mistrust the kneeling crowd. 
For he ne'er trembles for his fate, 
Nor groans beneath the cares of state. 

On a gently rising ground 
The lovely valley's farthest bound. 
Bordered by an ancient wood. 
The cots in thicker clusters stood ; 
And a Church uprose between. 
Hallowing the peaceful scene. 
Distance o'er its old walls threw 
A soft and dim cerulean hue, 
While the sun-lit gilded spire 
Gleamed as with celestial fire ! 

I have crossed the ocean-wave 
Haply for a foreign grave — 
Haply never more to look 
On a British hill or brook — 
Haply never more to hear 
Sounds unto my childhood dear ; — 
Yet if sometimes on mv soul 
Bitter thoughts beyond control 
Throw a shade more dark than night. 
Soon upon the mental sight 
Flashes forth a pleasant ray 
Brighter, holier, than the day ; 



TWO LANDSCAPES. 153 

And unto that happy mood 
All seems beautiful and good. 

Though from home and friends we part. 
Nature and the human heart 
Still may sooth the wanderer's care, . 
And his God is every where ! 

Seated on a l)ank of green, 
Gazing on an Indian scene, 
I have dreams the mind to cheer. 
And a feast for eye and ear. 
At my feet a river flows. 
And its broad face richly glows 
With the glory of the sun, 
Whose proud race is nearly run. 
Ne'er before did sea or stream 
Kindle thus beneath his beam, 
Ne'er did miser's eye behold 
Such a glittering mass of gold ! 
'Gainst the gorgeous radiance float 
Darkly, many a sloop and boat, 
While in each the figures seem 
Like the shadows of a dream ; 
Swift, yet passively, they glide 
As sliders on a frozen tide. 

Sinks the sun-^the sudden night 
Falls, yet still the scene is bright. 
Now the fire-fly's hving spark 
Glances through the foliage dark. 
And along the dusky stream 
Myriad lamps with ruddy gleam 



154 TWO LANDSCAPES. 

On the small waves float and quiver, 
As if upon the favored river. 
And to mark the sacred hour. 
Stars had fallen in a shower. 
For many a mile is either shore 
Illumined with a countless store 
Of lustres ranged in glittering rows ; 
Each a golden column throws 
To light the dim depths of the tide ; 
And the moon in all her pride, 
Though beauteously her regions glow. 
Views a scene as fair below*. 

Never yet hath waking vision 
Wrought a picture more Elysian ; 
Never gifted poet seen 
Aught more radiant and serene ! 
Though upon my native shore 
Mid the hallowed haunts of yore 
There are scenes that could impart 
Dearer pleasure to my heart. 
Scenes that in the soft light gleam 
Of each unforgotten dream, 
Yet the soul were dull and cold 
That its tribute could withhold 
When Enchantment's magic wand 
Waves o'er this romantic land ! 
Cossipore, Nov. 1839. 



This description has reference to the night of some religious festival. 



[ 155 ] 



THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 

POPE AND THE DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH. 



Pope left by his will, the care of his manuscripts, first to Lord 
Bolingbroke, and, in the event of his death, to Lord Marchraont, 
undoubtedly expecting, says Dr. Johnson, that they would be 
" proud of the trust and eager to extend his fame." It appears, 
however, that some time after Pope's death, Dodsley solicited 
preference as the publisher, and was told that the packet of 
papers had not been even looked at, and " whatever was the 
reason," adds Johnson, " the world has been disappointed of what 
was reserved for the next age." It is reasonable to suppose that 
amongst the manuscripts of Pope there must have been many 
interesting and valuable papers, but nothing of any value has yet 
appeared. Pope gave Bolingbroke the option of preservmg or 
destroying the manuscripts, and it is probable, from the circum- 
stances I am about to mention, that he chose the latter alternative. 
They never got into the possession of the Earl of Marchmont. 
A work entitled " A Selection from the Papers of the Earls of 
Marchmont," and published in 1831, by Sir George Rose, contains 
two letters from Lord Bolingbroke that are calculated to injure 
materially the memory of Pope, if they are not very closely and 
candidly considered. They are on the subject of Pope's Satire 
on the Duchess of Marlborough, included in his Epistle " On the 
Characters of Women," under the name of Atossa. To refresh 
the memory of the reader I shall here subjoin it. 

But what are these, to great Atossa's mind ? 
Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind ! 
Who, with herself, or others, from her birth 
Finds all her life one warfare upon earth : 

Y 9 



156 THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 

Shines in exposing knaves, and painting fools, 

Yet is whate'er slie hates and ridicules. 

No thought advances, but her eddying brain 

Wliisks it about, and down it goes auain. 

Full sixty years the world has been her trade, 

The wisest fool much time has ever made. 

Prom loveless youth to \inrespected age, 

No passion gratify 'd except her rage. 

So much tlie fury still outran the wit, 

The pleasure miss'd her, and the scandal hit. 

'Who breaks with her, provokes revenge from hell, 

But he's a bolder man who dares be well. 

Her every turn with violence pursued, 

Nor more a storm her hate than gratitude : 

To that each passion turns, or soon or late J 

Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate : 

Superiors ? death ! and equals .'' what a curse ! 

But an inferior not dependent? worse. 

Offend her, and she knows not to forgive ; 

Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live : 

But die, and she'll adore you — then the bust 

And temple rise — then fall again to dust. 

Last night her lord was all that's good and great ; 

A knave this morning, and his will a cheat. 

Strange ! by the means defeated of the ends. 

By spirit robb'd of power, by warmth of friends, 

By wealth of followers ! without one distress ^ 

Sick of herself, through very selfishness ! 

Atossa, curs'd with every granted prayer, 

Childless vpith all her children, wants an heir : 

To heirs unknown descends th' unguarded store, 

Or wanders, heaven directed, to tlie poor. 

"Wlien Pope first published the Epistle, in which this character 
now occurs, he informed the public in an advertisement, that it 
contained no character drawn from the life, an assertion which 
Johnson insinuates Pope did not wish to be believed. In a note to 
the poem also, Pope stated that it was imperfect, because a portion 
of his subject was vice too high to be then exposed. It is certain 
that the characters of Atossa, Philomedt and Cloe, the only ones 
which are supposed to apply to particular individuals, were subse- 



THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 157 

quently introduced. It is said by Warton that the hiies on Atossa 
were brought to the notice of the Duchess of Marlborough, under 
the pretence that they were intended for the portrait of the Duchess 
of Buckingham ; but she soon stopped the person reading them 
to her, and called aloud, " I cannot be so imposed upon ; I see 
plainly enough for whom they arc designed ;" and then violently 
abused the author. It is added that her Grace was afterwards 
reconciled to Pope, courted his favor, and gave him a thousand 
pounds to suppress the jwrtrait ; which he accepted, "it is said," 
by the persuasion of Mrs. M. Blount ; and yet after the Duchess's 
death, it was both printed and published. " This," savs Warton, 
" is the greatest blemish in our Poet's moral character." On which 
Bowles, one of the later editors of Pope, exclaims : " A blemish ! 
call it rather, if it be the fact, the most shameful dereliction of 
every thing that was marily and honorable." Mr. Roscoe, another 
editor of Pope, is very indignant with Mr. Bowles for this censure, 
though advanced so hypothetically, and notwithstanding a subse- 
quent avowal on the part of the latter that he did not give credit 
to so " base" a story. Roscoe supposes that Mr. Bowles must 
have meant it to be implied that Pope was guilty of tlie act, 
or he would not have characterized it by such expressions ; but 
surely it is unreasonable and unjust to take this view of the 
matter, after Mr. Bowles had by his own account indignantly 
disavowed his having charged Pope with such disgraceful treachery 
and meanness. Bowles was only surprised at the comparatively 
moderate manner in which Warton had spoken of an act that 
without any personal reference to Pope, was of a nature per se 
that could hardly be too sternly condemned. Johnson, though 
he does not seem to have heard any thing of the bribe, thought 
the character of Atossa was published with no great honor to the 
writer's gratitude, for the Poet had received from the Duchess a 
great deal of personal attention. Until this publication of the 
Marchmont Papers the story of the thousand pound bribe rested 



158 THE ATOSSA BRIBK. 

entirely on the authority of Horace Walpole ; and Roscoe, Bowles, 
Campbell and others, had refused to credit it. The latter writer 
in his remarks on Pope, in his "Specimens of the British Poets," 
observes that Warton, in relating the anecdote (after Walpole) 
adds a circumstance which contradicts the statement itself. " The 
Duchess's imputed character," says Campbell, " is said to have 
appeared in 1746, two years after Pope's death; Pope therefore 
could not have himself pubhshed it : and it is exceedingly impro- 
bable that the bribe ever existed." It is clear that Pope did not 
publish it, but in one of the two letters, which we shall now 
subjoin. Lord Bolingbroke asserts, that Pope just before his death 
corrected and prepared it for the press, which in a moral sense 
amounts to much the same thinsf : — 



VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE TO HUGH EARL OF MARCHMONT*. 

" Battersea, Monday. 
" My dear Lord, — The arrival of your servant with the message from 
Lord Stair gives me an opportunity of telHng you, tliat I continue in the 
resolution I mentioned to you last night, upon what you said to me from 
the Duchess of Marlborough. It would be a breach of that trust and 
confidence which Pope reposed in me, to give any one such of his papers 
as I think that no one should see. If there are any that may be injurious 
to the late duke or to her grace, even indirec^lly and covertly, as I hope 
there are not, they shall be destroyed : and you shall be a witness of their 
destruction. Copies of any such, I hope and believe, there are none 
abroad ; and I hope the duchess will believe, I scorn to keep copies when 
I destroy originals. I was willing you should have these assurances under 
the hand of, my dear lord, your faithfid and devoted humble servant, 

" BoLIiSOBROKE.'' 
VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE TO HUGH EARL OF MARCHMONT. 

" Monday Morning. 
" Our friend Pope, it seems corrected and prepared for the press, just 
before his death, an edition of the four Epistles that follow the Essay on 

* Hugh Earl of Marchmont came to his title about four years before Pope 
died. He was honored with a fine compliment in the poet's beautiful inscrip* 
tion in his grotto at Twickenham. He died 1794 in the eighty sixth year of his 
age, and left no male issue. 



THE ATOSSA BKIBK. 159 

Man. They were then printed off, and are now ready for publication. I 
am sorry for it, because, if he could be excused for writing the character of 
Alossa formerly, there is no excuse for his design of publishing it, after he 
had received the favour* (*1000^.), you and I know ; and the character of 
Atossa is inserted — I have a copy of the book. Warburton has the pro- 
priety of it, as you know. Alter it he cannot, by the terms of the will. 
Is it worth while to suppress the edition ? or should her grace's friends sav, 
as they may, from several stiokes in it, that it was not intended to be her 
character? and should she despise it.'' If you come over hither, we may 
talk better than write on the subject. Adieu, my Lord." 

Now that we have Walpole's authority supported by that of 
Bolingbroke, it becomes necessary to examine the subject with 
greater industry and earnestness. I do not wish it to be supposed 
that the letters of Bolingbroke, connected with the testi.uony of 
Walpole, have at all satisfied my raiud of the guilt of Pope. But 
I was certainly at first a little staggered by them. Much, as Sir 
Roger de Coverley would have observed, might be said on both 
sides of the question. To begin then with the dark side, I may 
remark that Pope's poetical ambition was his " ruling passion," 
and we may consequently imagine that the suppression of one of 
his best things (for such is the character of Atossa, as a piece 
of sharp and finished satire) was a sacrifice that required a 
more than ordinary display of virtuous resolution. He can hardly 
be supposed to have been quite sincere, when he eloquently ex- 
claimed. 

Cursed be the verse, how well soe'er it flow. 
That tends to make one worthy man my foe. 

Because it is inconsistent with his attack on the Duke of Chandos 
in the character of Timon, and the use he made of his celebrated 
satire upon Addison, which though written in anger, was publish- 
ed in cool blood twenty years after ! The celebrated character of 
Addison was so much admired, and Pope was so well pleased with 
it himself, that his poetical vanity got the better of his humanity 



160 THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 

and honor. Atterbury on his first perusal of the lines was struck 
with their energy and truth, and, as Roscoe remarks, with " no 
very christian spirit," he advised the Poet, " as he now knew where 
his strength lay, not to svffer it to renmin unemployed." Pope seems 
to have taken the hint with equal readiness and success. Roscoe, 
who defend? Pope's conduct on all occasions, with the usual par- 
tiality of an Editor, evinces a disposition to exculpate his conduct 
in the case of the satire on Addison ; but as Sir William Black- 
stone has rightly observed, however the Poet might be excused 
for penning such a character of his friend, in the first transports 
of his indignation, it reflects no great honor on his feelings to 
have kept it so long by him, and then to publish it after Addison 
was in his grave, and to hand it down to posterity engrafted into 
one of his best productions. Roscoe is mistaken in thinking his 
endeavour to prove that Pope was not actuated by a long and 
implacable hatred, will be serviceable to his cause ; for when he 
notices the fact, that from the time of Addison's first perusal of 
the satire to the day of his death, he always treated Pope with the 
utmost civility, he makes the case tell more strongly against the 
poet for his want of generosity. I believe the truth to be, that 
Pope was not moved by any violent animosity towards the memory 
of Addison when he published the verses, but that his ruling pas- 
sion, or in other words his love of fame, made him do what must 
have been in direct opposition to his own conscience and his 
natural feelings. While Pope's treatment of Addison was certain- 
Iv a blot on the fonner's moral reputation, it may be thought to 
aiford some appearance of confirmation to the assertions of Boling- 
broke and Walpole, with respect to the satire on the Duchess of 
Marlborough ; because the man who could permit his ambition 
to overcome his sense of moral rectitude in one instance coiUd do 
so in another. The two cases, however, are not exactly parallel. 
There is one important difi*erence. Though Pope might have 
published an iE-natured satire to gratify his love of fame at the 



THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 161 

expense of his better feelings, it does not follow that he would 
have been base enough to take a bribe. In fact, all that we know 
of Pope, is inconsistent with this feature of the charge against 
him. He was economical and " paper-sparing" to be sure, but 
he was by no means avaricious of wealth, and rejected many op- 
portunities of making money, when the mode by which it was to 
be obtained implied the slightest interference with his personal 
independence*. He was also extremely liberal and even lavish 
in his pecuniary favors to persons in distress, and by a judicious 
management of his small means contrived to do more good than 
many who were equally well disposed and who had double his 
advantages. On this point, therefore, the probabilities are strong- 
ly against Bolingbroke and Walpole. Pope labored the character 
of Atossa with extraordinary care, and was so gratified by his 
success, that his " ruling passion" alone, independent of any 
nobler or more prudent motive, would have made him reject at 



* He twice refused a pension, and Spence tells us, on the authority of Warbur- 
ton and others, that " Pope never flattered any body for money in the whole 
course of his writings. Alderman Barber had a great inclination to have a 
stroke in his commendation inserted in some part of Pope's writings. He did 
not want money and he wanted fame. He would probably have given four or 
five thousand pounds to have been gratified in his desire, und gave Mr. Pope in 
■understand so mucli ; but Mr. Pope would never comply with such a baseness." 
We also find in Spence's Anecdotes that " Pope was offered a very considerable 
sum by the Duchess of ISIarlborough if he would insert a good character of 
the Duke, and he absolutely refused it." The knowledge of these oflFers of 
payment for praise might possibly iiave suggested, however unreasonably, the 
invention of the scandal respecting a supposed offer for the suppression of a 
satire, and the Poet's acceptance of it. Pope had also in his lifetime been 
accused of receiving a thousand pounds from the Duke of Chandos, and ungrate- 
fully returning the kindness with a satire on his patron. The receipt of the 
money he indignantly denied. He also may be said to have denied by anticipa- 
tion the charge now considered when he proudly asserted that if he was a good 
poet, there was one thing upon which he valued himself and which was 
rare amongst good poets — a perfect independence. " I have never," he said, 
" flattered any man, nor ever received anything of any man for my verses." 
The old Duchess of Marlborough herself, who left many legacies to her friends, 
miglit have remembered the poet in her will if lie had treated her with more 
attention and respect. 



162 THE ATOSSA. BRIBE. 

once the offer of a thousand pounds to suppress it. Hazhtt said, 
that Moore ought not to have pubhshed Lallu Roohh, which he 
thought was a public disappointment, for three thousand pounds, 
" for his fame was worth more than that." If Moore's reputation 
has so high a pecuniary value, Pope's was certainly not inferior 
even in that respect, and he ought and would not, have suppress- 
ed a master-piece of satire for her Grace's bribe, however he might 
have been influenced by other considerations. If he bartered his 
poetical fame for gold he would not have taken less to suppress 
than Moore took to publish. The former had quite as lofty au 
opinion of his own genius as the latter can entertain of his. But it 
is worse than idle to talk in this mercantile manner about poetical 
productions, and I do not mean, in alluding to Hazlitt's remark, to 
imply any agreement with his opinion respecting the merits of 
Lalla Rookh. The pubhc generally were at least as much delight- 
ed with it as they expected to be. But to return to the point in 
question. Considering then that Pope valued poetical fame more 
than money, and was peculiarly punctilious on the score of his 
personal independence, and remarkably prudent and far-sighted on 
most worldly occasions, we may fairly conclude, even as a matter of 
mere pohcy, he would have rejected the supposed bribe, and not 
have placed himself in the power of so garrulous, violent and fickle 
a woman as the Duchess of Marlborough. It is pretty evident 
that Pope must be brought in guilty of ingratitude towards her 
grace, but not on account of a ^;<?cw«/«ry favor, which foims the 
darker feature of the charge. Perhaps even ingratitude is too 
strong a term to be used in this case, for the old lady on the whole 
probably gave him a good deal more annoyance than pleasure 
with her wavering humours, and was as much indebted to Pope as 
Pope was to her. But even if we must eventually admit that the 
Poet's conduct was not wholly irreproachable, it may be easily 
shown that his accusers have not proved him to be so tiiily corrupt 
and contemptible as their stories would imply. On a hasty perusal 



THE AT055SA BRIBE. 163 

of the letters of Bolingbroke (who was described by the poet him- 
self as his " Guide, Philosopher and Friend") I confess, I was 
not a little startled, I began to think Horace Walpole might be 
right after all, and Campbell, Roscoe and Bowles in a pleasing 
error. For a moment the case seemed decided. On a second con- 
sideration, however, I feel by no means disposed to place implicit 
confidence in the testimony of Bolingbroke, though coincident 
with that of Walpole. I shall explain some of those particulars 
■which in addition to what has been already advanced, make me 
question the veracity of these two writers. In the first place then 
they were neither of them disinterested witnesses. On the con- 
trary, Bolingbroke was actuated by what Johnson emphatically 
calls his " thirst of vengeance," and Horace Walpole was jealous 
of every author in existence, and was never on very cordial terms 
with Pope, though some little compliments may have passed 
between them. It was Walpole*, who said of Addison that " he 
died drunk ;" and for the pleasure of saying something new and 



* In the letter of Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, published by Lord 
Dover in 1833, Walpole tells his correspondent that Pope had suppressed in his 
edition of the Patriot King, a panegyric on Lord Lyttleton ; and that he gives 
this fact on the authority of Lord Chesterfield and Lord Lyttleton, "the latter 
of whom went to Boliiighroke to ask how he had forfeited his good opinion." To 
show what Walpole's spiteful tittle-tattle is worth, we have only to turn to a 
letter of Bolingbroke's to Hugh Earl of Marchiiiont in the Marchmont Papers, 
wherein he clearly states tliat the panegyric on Lyttleton was omitted, at that 
nobleman's own request. Bolingbroke's words are : — The publication you men- 
tion" (the Patriot King) " has brought no trouble upon me, though it has given 
occasion to many libels against me. They are of tlie lowest form , and seem to be 
held in the contempt they desei-ve. There I leave tiiem, nor suffer a nest of 
hornets to disturb the quiet of my retreat. If these letters of mine come to your 
hands, your Lordship will find that I have left out all that was said of our friend 
Lyttleton in one of them. He desired it might be so, and I had the double morti- 
fication of concealing tiie good I had said of one friend and of revealing the tur- 
pitude of another." Lord Dover in a note to one of Walpole's letters asserts 
very erroneously, that Bolingbroke discovered what Pope had done during his 
(Pope's) life time, and never forgave him for it. Bobngbroke might have known 
it before Pope's death, but if so we may conclude that lie had no objection to it 
tlien, as he was not tlie man to smother his passion-j. 

Y 2 



164 THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 

surprising, and the gratification of his literary envy, he was not 
very scrupulous in adhering to the truth, when retailing his anec- 
dotes of men of letters. The world would never have helieved 
the story of the Atossa bribe on his authority alone, and even 
Bolingbroke's support will not save it from the eventual incredu- 
lity of mankind. It would have been as well, however, if the 
Editor of the JNIarchmont Papers had been discreet enough to 
omit the two letters, for they will leave a stain somewhere, and 
if we save Pope, Bolingbroke must be sacrificed. Lord Boling- 
broke was during the life of the Poet, one of the most faithful 
and affectionate friends, and he wept over him in his helpless 
state of decay, with a passion almost feminine. It is, indeed, 
melancholy to reflect upon what trivial chances the warmest 
human friendship may be wrecked, and how suddenly its flame 
may be extinguished. Pope was scarcely cold in his grave before 
the man who had loved and mourned him like a brother, became 
inspired with an implacable hatred, and endeavoured to blast his 
memory with the malice of a demon. It appears, that on disco- 
vering that Pope had left his printed works to Warburton, whom 
Bolingbroke hated almost to madness, the latter was so stung 
with anger and jealousy, that he experienced a sudden revulsion 
of feehng, and thought only how he might revenge himself on 
the dead poet, as well as the living Churchman. Warburton had 
gained the affections of Pope by his subtle defence of The Essay 
on Man, and the poet's orthodoxy, which was more than ques- 
tioned on account of the arguments and illustrations which 
Bolingbroke had insidiously contrived should be introduced into 
the poem. The theologian, though he defended the poem in 
public, seems to have opened the poet's eyes to the nature of the 
philosophy into which Bolingbroke had inveigled him, and Pope 
made several subsequent alterations in accordance with the views 
of Warburton. This was of course gaU and wormwood to the 
philosophical Lord, and the theologian added fuel to his passion. 



THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 165 

by making various manuscript strictures of a very free and 
ungentle nature, on a copy of Bolingbroke's " Letters on the 
Study and Use of History," These strictures Pope shewed to 
Bohngbroke, who received them, it is said, with irrepressible 
indignation. Pope, however, passionately loved Bolingbroke to 
the last*, and must have little expected, that his leaving him only 
his MSS., and assigning his printed works to Warburton, as his 
Editor, would have kindled such fierce and unrelenting anger, and 
stirred up such deadly strife. To give some reasonable colour to 
his enmity towards his deceased friend, Bolingbroke pretended 
to be enraged at a breach of trust on the part of Pope. The 
circumstances attending this transaction, were as follows : 

Lord Bolingbroke's political tract of The Patriot King had been 
put into the hands of Pope, that he might procure the impression 
of a few copies, to be distributed amongst his Lordship's friends ; 
which was accordingly done ; but after the death of Pope, it 
appeared, that a much greater number (amounting it is said, to 
1,500) had been taken off and left in the hands of the printer, 
who after Pope's death delivered them up to his Lordship. 



* Pope, indeed, idolized him : when in company with him, he appeared with 
all the deference and submission of an affectionate scholar. He used to speak 
of him as a being of a superior order, that had condescended to visit this lower 
world ; in particular, when the last comet appeared, and approached near the 
earth, lie told some of his acquaintance, it was sent only to convey Lord 
Bolingbroke kome again ; just as a stage-coach stops at your door to take up a 
passenger. A graceful person, a flow of nervous eloquence, a vivid imagination, 
were the lot of this accomplished nobleman ; hut his ambitious views being 
frustrated in the early part of his life, his disappointments embittered his temper, 
and he seems to have been disgusted with all religions, and all governments. I 
have been informed from an eye-witness of one of his last interviews witii Pope, 
who was then given over by the physicians, that Bolingbroke, standing behind 
Pope's chair, looked earnestly down upon him, and repeated several times, in- 
terrupted with sobs, " O, great God, what is man 1 I never knew a person that 
had so tender a heart for iiis particular friends, or a warmer benevolence for all 
mankind." It is to be hoped tiiat Bolingbroke profited by those remarkable 
words that Pope spoke in his last illness to ttie same g-entleman who comnmni- 
cated the foregoing anecdote ; " I am so certain of the soul's being immortal, 
that I seem even to feel it within me, as it were by intuition." — Warton. 



166 THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 

Bolingbroke affected to be outrageously indignant at this " breach 
of trust," and employed Mallet, a mean and unprincipled scrib- 
bler of all work, to exaggerate and mis-represent the facts, and 
to hold up Pope to the execration of the world*. It was 
absurdly insinuated, that it was Pope's intention, had he sur- 
vived Bolingbroke, to have sold the book on his own account, and 
at a large price. Pope, as D'Israeli observes, must have been a 
miserable calculator of survivorships, if he had built his hopes of 
profit, on such a foundation asthisf. Warburton, " whose heart," 
Johnson says, " was yet warm with his legacy, and tender by the 
recent separation," apologised for Pope. His conduct was attri- 
buted to a desire of perpetuating the esteemed work of a friend, 
who might have capriciously destroyed it. The poet, it was 
said, could have no selfish motive ; he could not gratify his vanity 
by publishing it as his own, nor his avarice by its sale, which 
could never have taken place before the death of its author, a 
circumstance, as was just intimated, not likely to occur during 
Pope's lifetime. The last Earl of Marchmont's account of this 
matter, as given to the honourable George Rose+, makes it stUl 
more improbable that Pope should have been actuated by any 
unworthy motive. This account was pubhshed by Mr. A. Chal- 
mers in the Biographical Dictionary. According to this state- 
mentj it appears, that some copies of The Patriot King, were 



* Mallet (who is but the montlipiece of his patron) objects that " scraps and 
fragments of these papers had been employed to swell a monthly Magazine." 
But is it likely that Pope would send parts of the work to a Magazine, and yet 
expect that they could be so used without a chance of the circumstance coming 
to the knowledge of Bolingbroke ? If he did send fragments of the work to a 
Magazine, it is clear that he must have thought himself justified in so doing. It 
was not a secret act, and no one pretends that it was his object to provoke the 
hostility of BoLngbroke. 

t Pope's deatii was a very slow one, and fully expected by himself. Had he 
been conscious ol any impropriety witti resptct to tlie printing of The Patriot 
King, he might very easily and secretly have destroyed the entire impression. 

% The father of the Editor of the Marchmont Papers. 



THE ATOSSA. BRIBE. 167 

printed and distributed with Bolingbroke's knowledge, to Lord 
Cornbury, Lord Mai'chmont, SirW. Wyndham, Mr. Lyttleton, and 
various gentlemen of respectability. A copy was given by Pope 
to Mr. Allen, of Prior Park, near Bath ; and he was so captivated 
with it, that he pressed Pope to allow him to print an edition at 
his own expense, using such caution as should effectually pre- 
vent a single copy getting into the possession of any one, before 
the author's consent should be obtained. Under a solemn en- 
gagement to this effect. Pope reluctantly consented. The edition 
was packed up and deposited in a warehouse, of which Pope kept 
the key*. Now as there was nothing in the book, calculated to 

• Mr. Rose's report of Lord Marchmont's statement includes the following 
additional details :— " On the circumstance being made known to Lord Boling- 
broke, who was then a guest in his own house at Battersea with Lord i\Iarch- 
mont, to whom he had lent it for two or three years, his lordsliip was in great 
indignation, to appease which Lord Marchmont sent Mr. Grevenkop (a Ger- 
man gentleman who hatl travelled with him, and was afterwards in the house- 
hold of Lord Chesterfield, when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland) to bring out the 
wliole edition, of which a bonfire was immediately made on the terrace of Bat- 
tersea." It cannot be collected from the foregoing statement whether the dis- 
covery alluded to occurred before or after the death of Pope, and it is certain 
that it is not consistent with ^lallet's account, which was drawn up, it is supposed, 
under Bolingbroke's superintendence. It is contradicted still more positively by 
Lord Bolingbroke himself in a letter (in the Marchmont Papers) addressed to 
Lord Marchmont. The letter commences as follows. 

" Battersea, Oct. 22, 1774. 

"My dear Lord, — Since you will take the trouble of receiving from Mr. 
Wright the edition of that paper, which our late friend caused so treaciierously 
to be made ; and since I mean to have it only to destroy it, tlie bringing it 
hither would be useless. Be so good therefore as to see it burned at your house, 
to help to dry which is the best use it can be put to. If your Lordship pleases 
to speak earnestly to Wright of the necessity that no copy be left, and of your 
desire and mine, that he would be attentive to discover whether any be left, and 
to give notices of any the least apprehension of a publication by tliat means, you 
will oblige me extremely." 

From this letter it would seem that Lord IMarchmont was not under the same 
roof with Bolingbroke at the time alluded to, and that the book was not burnt at 
Battersea nor any where else until after the death of Pope, which occurred on 
the 30th of May of the same year, or nearly five months previous to tlie date of 
Bolingbroke's letter. Sir George Rose, however, I suppose on the authority of 
Lord ftlarchmont's statement, though he does not say so, asserts in a note that 
notwitlistanding wliat is said in the above letter the book was burnt at Battersea. 
This is very unlikely. 



168 THE ATOSSA BRIBE. 

injure Bolingbroke in any way, by its publication, which he only 
objected to because it had not received his last corrections, and 
there is no conceivable bad motive by which Pope could have 
been actuated, it is clear that the vindictive rage of his Lordship 
was excited by another cause, and that cause was Pope's prefer- 
ence of Warburton as the Editor of his works*. Mrs. Blount 
warmly assured Mr. Spence, that " she could take her oath, that 
The Patriot King was printed by Pope, out of his excessive esteem 
for the writer and his abilities," which, as Roscoe remarks, is the 
only rational mode of accounting for the transaction. Now 
when we find that Bolingbroke's furious passion made him con- 
descend to connect himself with such a personage as Mallet, 
of whom Johnson tells us it had been said that " he was the 
only Scotchman that Scotchmen did not commend," and who 
was " ready for any dirty job ;" when we trace the unrelent- 
ing acrimony with which, in conjunction with this ready hire- 
ling, he endeavoured to blast the memory of his old friend ; let 
it be put to any candid and considerate reader, whether it is 
not more likelv, that Bolingbroke coined or rather confirmed a 
malignant falsehood, than that Pope was guilty of the corruption 
imputed to him. It is true, that at first sight, there is something 



Sir George Rose has a very violent note to the second of the two letters I 
have already quoted, and does not hesitate to use language respecting Pope that 
would have been worthy of Mallet himself. He calls him crooked-minded — takes 
it for granted that he is guilty of all that he is charged with, and describes his 
treatment of the Duchess as an act of singular baseness and malignity. No al- 
lusion is made by the Editor to his father's repetition of the late Lord March- 
mont's statement, which it can hardly be supposed he had not seen. 

* D'Israeli accounts for Bolingbroke's rage in the same manner. RufF- 
head, however, in his Life of Pope, attributes it entirely to the hostile criticism 
of Warburton already noticed, and asserts that though Bolingbroke continued 
after that circumstance to caress Pope, he entertained for him a secret hatred 
on account of his friendship with Warburton. But this is not credible, for 
whatever were Bolingbroke's faults he cannot fairly be suspected of such mean 
and cold-blooded hypocrisy. He migiit have cloaked the real cause of his 
anger, but he was not such a consummate hypocrite as to shed tears of apparent 
tenderness over the man he hated. 



STANZAS TO A FEMALE FRIEXD. 169 

against this view of the matter in the circumstance of his Lord- 
ship's making a kind of appeal to the Earl of Marchmont's know- 
ledge of the bribe ; but it must be remembered that we have not 
the Earl's reply before us, and that it is possible he might have 
denied the possession of the imputed knowledge, or that at all 
■-events, he might only have heard of it as a rumour raised by 
some of Pope's numerous enemies, and Bolingbroke, to serve his 
own purpose, alluded to it as an indisputable fact with which they 
were mutually acquainted. Perhaps Bolingbroke himself was the 
first who communicated it to the Earl. The pubUc ought not to 
give too hasty and ready a credence to the assertions of so inter- 
ested a witness as Lord Bohngbroke, against one, who, whether 
as a man or a poet, is entitled to our admiration ; for his actions 
were generally of an amiable and honorable character, and liis 
works wiU delight and instruct mankind, as long as the language 
in which they are written shall endure*. 



STANZAS TO A FEMALE FRIEND. 

I. 

Fair Lady, as though friendship's chain seem broken 

It holds, with wonted force, this faithful heart, 

I fain reserve's delusive veil would part. 

And learn if haply yet some lingering token 

Of old regard and tenderness supprest 

Remaineth lurking in thy gentle breast. 



* Mrs. Thomson in her " Memoirs of Sarah Duchess of Marlborough," lately 
published ( 1839), makes no allusion to the Marchmont Papers, and merely 
repeats, after Walpole and Warton, the old story of the bribe. 



170 STANZAS TO A FEMALE FRIEND. 

II. 

Fate with no heavier blow nor keener sting* 
May crush or goad us, when the genial power 
Of friendship fails, and trifles of an hour 
Rend each dear hnk that from our early spring 
Held us in pleasant thrall. The cup of life 
Bears naught so bitter as the drops of strife ! 

in. 

Alas ! I may not meet thee in the crowd. 
Unmoved — for in thy sweet, familiar face 
The hallowed past hath left a startling trace : — 
At once, with sudden impulse, fond and proud 
My bosom heaves — unconsciously my feet 
Approach thee — and my lips thy name repeat ! 

IV. 

But oh ! the deadly pang, the freezing chill. 
When by the calm gaze of that altered eye 
The spell is broken ! Lady, if the sigh 
That meets thine ear could say what feelings thrUl 
This troubled breast, or what my sad looks meant, 
Methinks e'en thy stern coldness might relent. 

V. 

I cannot think that all our mutual dreams 

Were false as twilight shadows, nor believe 

Thine heart could change, or words like thine deceive 

And still, as travellers for the sun's bright beams 

Up-gaze in hope, though clouds may lour awhile, 

I wait and watch for thy returning smile. 



[ 171 J 



THE DAY OF LIFE. 

I. 

Oh ! blue were the mountains. 
And gorgeous the trees, 
And stainless the fountains. 
And pleasant the breeze ; 
A glory adorning 
Tlie wanderer's way, 
In Life's sunny morning. 
When young Hope was gay ! 

II. 

The blue hills are shrouded. 
The gi'oves are o'ercast. 
The bright streams are clouded. 
The breeze is a blast ; 
The light hath departed 
The dull noon of Life, 
And Hope, timid-hearted. 
Hath fled from the strife ! 

III. 
In fear and in sadness. 
Poor sports of the storm, 
"Whose shadow and madness 
Enshroud and deform ; 
Ere Life's day is closing 
How fondly we crave 
The dreamless reposing — 
The calm of the grave, 
z 2 



[ 172 ] 



STANZAS. 



Oh ! visit not 

My couch of dreamless sleep. 

When even thou shalt be forgot 

By this so faithful breast ; 

But let the stranger watch my silent rest 

With eyes that will not weep ! 

II. 
Oh ! come not. Maid ! 
I crave no sigh from thee. 
E'en when my mouldering frame is laid 
Within the cold dull grave ; 
For the yew shall moan, and the night-wind rave, 
A fitting dirge for me ! 

III. 
Oh ! weep not. Love ! 
While grief were agony, — 
Wait 'till the balm of time remove 
The fever of the brain. 

And dear, though mournful dreams alone remain 
Of me and misery ! 

IV. 

Oh ! then, fair Maid ! 

By twilight linger near 

The rustUng trees whose green boughs shade 

My lonely place of rest ; 

And hallow thou the turf that wraps my breast 

With pity's purest tear I 



r 173 ] 



BIRTH.DAY STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 

I. 

My spirit revels deep in dreams to-day ; 

I dimly recognize the scenes around ; 
For though thy fairy form is far away. 

And still thy father treads this foreign ground. 
He sees thee in thy native fields at play. 

And hears thy hght laugh's sweet familiar sound 
Merry and musical as birds in May ! 

II. 

This is thy natal morn — a date how dear ! 

How many tender memories mark the time ! 
How oft thy prattle charmed a parent's ear. 

And soothed his soul in this ungenial clime I 
How oft, when impious discontent was near. 

Thy sinless smile hath kindled hopes sublime. 
And made the gloom of exile seem less drear ! 

III. 

Though now in weary lonehness I learn 

What countless miseries broken ties may bring. 

Though vainly to deserted rooms I turn 
For one domestic charm, I wiU not fling 

A shade upon this hour, nor idly yearn 

For pleasures passed on Time's too rapid wing ; 

Nor pine at Fate's decrees, however stem. 



174 BIRTH-DAY STANZAS TO MY CHILD. 

IV. 

Dear Child ! to thee devoted is the day. 

Thy brethren, (gentle twins,) and she who bears 

A mother's sacred name, are proud and gay ; 
The small white EngHsh cottage sweetly wears 

A festal look, while friends and kindred pay 
Their tribute-praise, foretel thy future years, 

And paint the brightness of thine onward way. 

V. 

And when the cheerful feast is nearly o'er. 

The wine-cup shall be filled, and thy dear name 

Be fondly pledged each elder guest's before. 
Regardful of the time ; a pleasing shame 

Shall flush thy cheek ; and then the brilliant store 
Of Birth-day gifts shall childhood's dreams inflame, 

While aged hearts remember days of yore. 

VI. 

And yet, 'mid all this mirthfulness and pride, 
The sudden tears shall dim thy mother's eye. 

And thou, sweet boy, shalt sadly cast aside 
Thy glittering gauds, and stand in silence by. 

While prayers are breathed for him by fate denied 
On England's happy shores to live or die. 

Or cross again the severing waters wide. 

VII. 

But this blest day no cares shall shade my heart, 
Save such as pass hke clouds o'er summer skies ; 

As once thy presence bade despair depart. 
So now before thy memory sorrow flies ; 

And almost momently around me start 

Dear forms of home, that wake a sweet surprise. 

Like visions raised by some enchanter's art ! 
Calcutta, Oct. 19, 1831. 



[ 175 J 



ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 



The lineaments of the body will discover those natural inclinations of the 
mind which dissimulation will conceal or discipline will suppress. 

Lord Bacon, 
I knew by his face there was something in him. 

Shakespeare. 
I am so apt to frame a notion of every man's humour or circumstances by his 
looks, that I have sometimes employed myself from Charing-cross to the Royal 
Exchange in drawing the characters of those who have passed by me. When 
I see a man with a sour rivelled face, I cannot forbear pitying his wife : and 
when I meet with an open ingenuous countenance, think on the happiness of 
his friends, his family and relations. 

Addison. 



Physiognomy is a science which most people smile at, and 
V?liich all practise. It is more easily ridiculed than abandoned. 
The old and the young, the wise and the foolish, the shrewd and 
the simple, the suspicious and the confiding', all trust more or 
less, either for good or for evil, to the outward and visible signs 
of the internal spirit. The philosophical testimonies in favor of 
this science are sufficiently respectable both in character and 
number. In the olden time the sages of Eg}^t and of India cul- 
tivated it with enthusiasm, and it is supposed that it was from 
those countries that Pythagoras introduced it into Greece. 

Aristotle treated largely of the Physiognomy, not only of man, 
but of the brute creation. After his time many Greek authors 
wrote treatises upon the subject, of which a collection was formed 
and published in 1780. Like Medicine and Astrology it was for 
a long time associated with divination, and they who followed it 
as a profession did not confine their scrutiny to the mental charac- 



176 ON PHTSIOGNOMT. 

ter of the countenance, but endeavoured to trace in its lineaments 
the destiny of the individual, as the fortune-teller of the present 
day peruses the lines of the hand. It subsequently fell into a 
temporary disrepute. 

It was about the commencement of the eighteenth century that 
the science was revived. Several treatises on the subject were 
then published, both in England and on the Continent, by able and 
learned men ; but Lavater was the first writer of eminence in 
modern times who made it fashionable and popular. His work 
on the subject was got up in so splendid a style and with such 
numerous illustrative engravings, and the author himself was so 
much esteemed for his many personal virtues, that though he 
was opposed by a few of the critics of the day he speedily obtain- 
ed a large body of disciples, and his writings were translated into 
various languages. A man more truly pious, or more candid and 
benevolent, the world has rarely known. His character would 
sufi"er nothing by a comparison even with that of Fenelon, whom 
he in many respects resembled. He was not a profound philoso- 
pher, but that he was a man of genius no one can have a mo- 
ment's doubt who has read his celebrated work on Physiognomy, 
and the autobiographical notices of his early hfe. It is true that 
the former is often much too fanciful. It is also too verbose and 
desultory, and abounds in useless repetitions. These defects 
must be at once admitted ; but they are redeemed by so many 
acute and ingenious observations, by so many noble sentiments, 
and by such a pervading spirit of philanthropy and religion, that 
the author's enthusiasm is almost irresistibly contagious. Though 
his ardour in the illustration of his favorite science beguiles him 
occasionally into very untenable positions, and leads him to speak 
somewhat too decidedly upon points that are purely speculative, 
his frank acknowledgments of error, and the curious avowal, 
more than once repeated, that he knows little or nothing of the 
subject notwithstanding his long study and experience, disarm the 



ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 177 

anger of the reader, and prepare him to make a liberal allowance 
for every imperfection. 

Lavater introduced the study of osseal physiognomy. All 
preceding authors confined themselves chiefly to a consideration 
of what has been called patJiognomij, which includes only those 
moveable or accidental or transient appearances in the muscles or 
soft parts of the human face which betray the vicissitudes of feel- 
ing and of thought, while they neglected those permanent out- 
lines which indicate the general and fixed character of the heart 
and mind. He was not onlv a physiognomist in the ordinary and 
limited sense of the term, but as much of a craniologist as Gall or 
Spurzheim, though he did not pretend to the same degree of 
preternatural knowledge ; nor attempt, as they did, to divide the 
mind into distinct and opposite faculties, and assign them their 
several little bumps or cells. 

Lavater advises the student to place a collection of sculls or 
casts of heads of celebrated or well known persons in one hori- 
zontal row. After comparing these sculls or casts carefully with 
each other, and each with the intellectual or moral character of 
the individual, the student may proceed to the consideration of 
the external conformation of unknown persons. He who after 
comparing the heads of men of various degrees of mental power 
can remain of opinion that there is no diff'erence between the 
sculls of the highest and lowest order of intellect, or in other 
words that mind leaves no fixed and legible traces upon matter, 
whether bone or flesh, must have a cranium of his own that 
would be a puzzle to the phrenologist, were it to indicate any 
portion of intelligence beyond the merest instinct. Perhaps there 
is no instance in the whole history of human greatness of a man 
of magnificent genius with a head, of which the frontal portion 
was at once both low and naiTow. We occasionally indeed 
meet with persons of considerable capacity whose foreheads may 
exhibit either the one or the other of these defects ; but never 
2 A 



178 ox PHYSIOGNOMr. 

both : and the defect is invariably redeemed by the opposite 
advantage of height or breadth. But though genius refuses to 
reside in a forehead at once both low and narrow, it is not everv 
high or broad one that is honored by its presence. A large fore- 
head is not always intellectual. Its peculiarity of shape and in- 
chnation is of great importance. If it either falls too far back 
from the face or too much overhangs it, though in other respects 
of fair proportion, it is indicative of mental imbecility, and ap- 
proaches too nearly in character to the heads of animals. The 
old Grecian artists had so strong an impression of the unintellec- 
tual aspect of a violently retreating forehead, that in their anxiety 
to avoid it in their ideal portraits they almost ran into the op- 
posite extreme ; and though they never allowed it to bulge out 
and overhang the lower features, they made it nearly perpendi- 
cular, which in the living subject denotes dulness and incapacity. 
The forehead of an idiot generally either hangs clumsily, like a 
projecting rock, over a wild and dreary face, or falls directly back, 
as we find it in the lower animals. 

It is veiy rarely that we find amongst those who deny the 
truth of Physiognomy, a man of much acuteness or reflection. 
The few reasonable persons who are met with in the ranks of its 
opponents are generally influenced more by a mistrust of their 
own physiognomical discernment, or an apprehension of the mis- 
chief and injustice which follow erroneous judgments, than by 
any serious conviction that the mind is not generally stamped 
upon the features. To those who object to the science on the 
ground of its uncertainty, as regards human skill, there are two 
answers. In the first place truth itself is not to be rejected or 
denied, because its followers are occasionally at fault : and in the 
second, let us reason as cautiously and as coldly as we may, we 
can never wholly resist the impressions which we receive from 
the perusal of a human face. 

There is no science, however useful or important, the professors 



ON PHYSIOGKOMr. 179 

of which have not fallen into egregious errors. It is not less 
unreasonable to reject Physiognomy because the physiognomist is 
occasionally mistaken, than it would be to reject theology, medi- 
cine, and even mathematics on similar grounds. The teachers 
and students are alike liable to error in them all. Science is fixed, 
but man is fallible. Lavater acknowledges his repeated blunders, 
without supposing that his own mistakes form an argument 
against the truth of his favorite science ; but Gall and Spurzheim 
seem to think themselves as infallible as the Pope, and have so 
completely identified themselves with the science which they teach, 
that to confess an error, however slight, in their minutest details 
or their wildest speculations, would be tantamount to an admission 
that all the broad principles of phrenology, are like the baseless 
fabric of a vision. In a lecture delivered by the latter at Liver- 
pool in May 1822, he said that if but one tender and affectionate 
mother could be proved to be deficient in the organ of philopro- 
genitiveness or the love of children (a bump at the back of the 
head), or not have it strongly developed, he would give up Phreno- 
logy at once ! A decision of this nature is equally unphilosophical 
and presumptuous. It is like the dogmatism of a religious en- 
thusiast, who stakes the cause of Christianity on the accuracy of 
his own interpretation. 

A profound study of Physiognomy would perhaps enable us to 
trace the origin of our ideas of beauty. It is a problem that has 
excruciated many subtle intellects. I may hazard an opinion, 
that it is not a quality of matter. The face, per se, has probably 
no more relation to beauty or ughness than a lamp or transparent 
vase that betrays the light or colour from within. Beauty is a 
moral or intellectual quality shining through material forms. 
Those forms are the most pleasing to the eye which are commonly 
the medium of the mental quality that we most admire. Mr. 
Burke, with all his ingenuity and acutcness, seems to have been 
more successful in showing what beauty is not, than what it is. 
2 A 2 



180 ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 

I cannot adopt his vague and unsatisfactory definition. " It is for 
the greater part," he says, " some quality in bodies acting me- 
chanically upon the human mind by the intervention of the senses." 
Some late writers on the subject, among vrhom are IMr. Alison 
and Mr. Jeffrey, suppose that in reality no one form of matter is 
more beautiful than another, and that all our ideas of beauty are 
the result of habit and association. This theory has often been 
opposed with considerable ingenuity. Mr. Hazlitt, in his little 
essay on the subject, though he does not define what beauty is, 
endeavours to show that it is in some way inherent in the object. 
To the argument that beauty is a mere quality of mind, it may 
perhaps be objected that there are certain material objects, un- 
connected with life or spirit, such as a flower or a shell, which 
are admired as soon as seen. But even in new and inanimate 
objects the mind invariably discovers some kind of analogy, how- 
ever slight or remote, with its own nature. The analogy is not 
the less decisive, because it is sometimes a secret and almost un- 
conscious process. It is in this way that poets breathe life and 
passion into all external things, and sympathize with their own 
creations. The more imagination we possess, the deeper is our 
sense of beauty. The Medicean Venus, that excites some men 
to an ecstacy of admiration, is regarded by others whose 
corporeal vision is in no degree inferior, with absolute in- 
difference. Smollet thought contemptuously of it. The efTect 
depends greatly upon the mind of the observer. Persons of 
exquisite delicacy of taste and feeling recognize traits of a 
congenial spirit in the smooth elegance and the flowing outlines 
of the face and figure. We must be capable of conceiving and of 
sympathizing with the internal spirit, before its outward symbols 
can awaken a genuine enthusiasm. On this account no man who 
has not a touch of gentleness or nobility in his own nature can 
study the science of Physiognomy with complete success. He 
might quickly discover his own crimes or weaknesses in the faces 



ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 181 

of kindred characters, but the signs of a higher spirit would 
escape his penetration, or present a tacit reproof of his own self- 
esteem, that would render him quite unable to peruse them with 
an impartial judgment. There is a great deal of truth in the 
common sa\'ing, that a person has generally the good or ill qua- 
lities which he attributes to mankind. If Swift had written a 
work on Physiognomy, it would have been very different from 
that of Lavater. The more the latter studied the countenances 
of men, the higher became his opinion of our internal nature. 
But the cold, the stern, the suspicious and sarcastic English 
Satirist would have found nothing amiable or glorious in the 
" human face divine." He only who unites in himself the rarely 
connected qualities of an enlarged and liberal mind with a capacity 
for minute observation, and a knowledge of the world with a pure 
and gentle heart, can hope to attain an equal facility in tracing 
the signs of vice or virtue. 

The opponents of Physiognomy found their chief objections on 
isolated facts, and accidental circumstances. They are people 
who have a strange prejudice against all broad principles and 
general rules. With them a slight mistake even in the language 
of a proposition decides its fate. They rejoice at a flaw in the 
indictment. Thus if they happen for once in their lives to meet 
with an honest face on the shoulders of a rogue, or to have 
discovered a professed physiognomist in error, or to have proved 
their own want of physiognomical discernment by some still 
greater blunder, we are gravely assured that appearances are 
deceitful, and are called upon to believe that the soul of man is 
never legible in his face. They conclude that the aspect of 
humanity is a continual lie, because they have in some instances 
failed to read it rightly, or because certain individuals by a cun- 
ning misuse of their features, and others by some accident in life 
or some unkindly freak of nature, form exceptions to the ordinary 
correspondence between mind and matter. Physiognomy is a 



182 ON rnYSiOGNOMy. 

science which can never admit of mathematical precision. But 
entirely to reject it on that account is illogical and absurd. The 
physician's art is equally uncertain. The full and blooming 
cheek is a sign of health and strength, and the pale and thin one 
of sickness and debility. The physician is guided by these 
tokens. Should they sometimes happen to deceive him, (such 
occurrences being comparatively rare) he does not the less regard 
them in other cases as symbolical of the internal condition of the 
system. He acts upon his general experience. If amongst a 
thousand apples, of a fresh and rosy look, there should be five or 
six that are rotten at the core, it would be ridiculous and childish 
to dispute, on account of these exceptions, the general assertion, 
that the quality of fruit is indicated by its appearance. 

Notwithstanding our occasional m.istakes and disappointments, 
the human face is still like a book of reference which we perpe- 
tually consult. We study the features of a stranger before we 
admit him to our confidence. We decide upon his character 
at a single glance, and with infinitely more truth and precision 
than we could arrive at by a more lengthened and laborious pro- 
cess. Looks are more legible than words, and far less deceitful. 
We can better command our phrases than our features, though 
the former are by no means so expressive of the movements of 
the soul. Even deeds are more equivocal than looks, because 
the motives which give them their real character are often too 
deeplv shrouded in the heart to be discovered by the world. 

Our first impressions arc commonly the tmest. The general 
character of the face, and the peculiar expression which is stamp- 
ed upon the features by the thoughts and feelings of many years, 
flash into our minds with more force and cleai-ness when we 
meet them as a novelty than when they become more familiar. 
Thus the first view of a landscape or a city impresses the real 
eflfect more vividly on the fancy than any subsequent or more 
deliberate observation. 



ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 183 

We cannot easily conquer the feeling of repugnance which is 
sometimes excited by the countenance of a stranger. Neither 
can we always explain the cause, even to ourselves. 

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell ; 
The reason why I cannot fell. 

Even when subsequent familiarity, an exchange of kind offices, 
and a strong desire to shake off an apparently ungenerous pre- 
judice, suppress for a time all harsh and unfriendly thoughts, 
some accidental exposure of character, either in word, deed, or 
look, is almost sure to confirm our first impression. There is a 
curious passage in Gcssner's Life of Lavater, that may serve as 
illustration. I quote the translation by Thomas Holcroft*. 

" A person to whom he was an entire stranger was once announced, 
and introduced to liim as a visitor. The first idea that rose in his mind, 
the moment he saw him, was — ' Tliis man is a murderer.' — He however 
suppressed the thouglit as unjustifiably severe and hasty, and coii\ersed 
with the person with liis accustomed civility. Tlie cultivated under>tand- 
ing, extensive imformation, and ease of manner which he discovered in 
his visitor, inspired him with the highest respect for his intellectual endow- 
ments ; and his esteem for these, added to the benevolence and candour 
natural to him, induced him to disregard the luifavonrable im[)ression lie 
had received from his first appearance witii respect to his moral character. 
The next day he dined with him by invitation ; but soon after it was 
known that tliis accomplished gentleman was one of the assassins of tiie 
late king of Sweden ; and he found it advisable to leave the country as 
speedily as possible." 

Rousseau somewhere speaks of a man in whose countenance he 
traced certain obscure and mysterious indications of an evil cha- 
racter, and he accordingly resolved to avoid him quietly while 
there was yet peace between them ; for he felt, he knew not why. 



* The son of this well-known writer, ^'illiers Holcroft, died in Calcutta a 
few years ago. He lived and died neglected. His death, 1 believe, was not 
even announced in the newspaper obituaries. 



184 ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 

that it coiild not long continue. Eveiy man has experienced from 
repulsive features the same strong but undefinable impressions. 
Rousseau, however, often fell into great mistakes, for his fancy 
outran his observation. He regarded the face as a book in which 
he might read strange matters, and was far too whimsical and dis- 
trustful to make a just and accurate physiognomist. In the 
account of the controversy between him and Hume there is a 
curious and characteristic instance of his too fanciful interpreta- 
tion of the face. It is given in Rousseau's own words. 

" As v.e were sitting one evening, after supper, silent by the fire-side, I 
caught his (Hume's) eyes intently fixed on mine, as indeed happened very 
often : and that in a manner of which it is very difficult to give an idea. 
At that time he gave me a steadfast, piercing look, mixed with a sneer 
which greatly disturbed me. To get rid of the embarrassment I lay under, 
I endeavoured to look full at him in my turn ; but in fixing my eyes 
ao^ainst his I felt the most inexpressible terror, and was obliged soon to turn 
them away. The speech and physiognomy of the good David is that of 
an honest man ; but where, great God ! did this good man borrow those 
eyes he fixes so sternly and unaccountably on those of his friends .'' 

" The impression of this look remained with me, and gave me much un- 
easiness. ]\Jy trouble increased even to a degree of fainting; and if I had 
not been relie\ed by an effusion of tears, I had been suffocated. Presently 
after this I was seized with the most violent remorse ; I even despised 
myself; till at length, in a transport which I still remember with delight, 
I sprang on his neck, embraced him eagerly ; while almost choked with 
sobbing, and bathed in tears, I cried out, in broken accents, No, no, 
David Hume cannot be treadierous. Jj he be not the best of men, he must 
be the basest of mankind. David Hume politely returned my embraces, 
and gently tapping me on the back, repeated several times, in a good- 
natured and easy tone. Why, what, my dear Sir! Nay, my dear Sir! 
Oh my dear Sir ! He said nothing more. I felt my heart yearn within 
me. We went to bed ; and I set out the next day for the country." 

Hume answers all this by explaining, that like most studious 
men, he was subject to reveries and fits of absence, in which he 
sometimes had a fixed look or stare. A cool and sober physiogno- 
mist could not have made so ridiculous a mistake as that of 
Rousseau. 



ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 185 

Thomas Moore has a poetical fling at physiognomy. 

"In vain we fondly strive to trace 
The soul's reflection in the face ; 
In vain we dwell on lines and crosses 
Crooked mouths, or short proboscis : 
Boobies have looked as wise and bright 
As Plato or the Stagyrite ; 
And many a sage and learned skull 
Has peeped through windows dark and dull." 

This may be wit, but it is not philosophy. I have answered its 
logic by anticipation, in noticing the ordinary objections. He has 
even Holy Writ against him. " Wisdom maketh the comite- 
nance bright*." Spenser was not only a greater poet, but a bet- 
ter philosopher than Moore, and saw the strict analogy between 
the mind and body. 

" For of the soul the body form doth take." 

Spenser. 

Has nature bestowed upon man such an admirable mechanism 
of features for no useful end ? The purport of outw-ard expression 
is to show what passes in the mind, and as we have already said, 
it is far more true than words. Speech, it has been wittily observ- 
ed, was given to man to conceal his thoughts. But looks cannot 
often deceive the most inexperienced of mankind. AU children 
have skill in physiognomy. It is our mother tongue. We under- 
stand it in our cradles. It is universal. Even animals can read 
it in the faces of their kind, and sometimes in that of men. It is 
wonderful with what precision we peruse the countenances of 
those on whom our hopes and happiness depend. Thus boys at 
school exhibit a remarkable quickness in discovering the mood of 
their master in the condition of his features — 

" Well do the boding tremblers learn to trace 
The day's disasters in his morning face." 

• Lavater also gives Scriptural authority for the truth of physiognomy, and 
makes the following quotation.— " A man may be known by his look, and one 
that has understanding by his countenance, when thou meetest him." 

2 B 



186 ON PHYSIOGNOMT. 

" There is surely," says Sir Thomas Browne, " a physiognomy 
which master mendicants obsei've ; whereby they instantly dis- 
cover a merciful aspect, and will single out a face wherein they 
spy the signatures and marks of mercy ; for there are mystically 
in our faces certain characters, which carry in them the motto of 
our souls, wherein he that can read A, B, C, may read our 
natures." Lavater describes a particular kind of nose which in 
his opinion is of more wortli than a kingdom. This is somewhat 
too extravagant, but the value of an honest and noble face can 
hardly be over-rated. Montaigne says, that on the mere credit 
of his open aspect, persons who had no other knowledge of his 
character had the most implicit confidence in his honor. He 
gives some curious illustrations of this fact. Even Moore, whose 
versified attack on physiognomy we have just quoted, has shown 
his just appreciation of beauty of person as associated with beauty 
of mind, and has on all occasions connected certain internal quali- 
ties with certain exterior maiks in the persons of his heroes and 
his heroines. The veiled Prophet of Khorassan has a visage in 
keeping with his hideous soul, and the light of the haram, the 
young Nourmahal, is blessed with a set of features and a figure 
that are worthy of an angel. 

" Willie her laugh, full of life, without any controul, 
But the sweet one of gracefulness, rung from her soul ; 
And where it most sparkled no glance could discover, 
In lip, cheek, or eyes, for it brightened all over, — 
Like any fair lake that tiie breeze is upon 
A\ hen it breaks into dimples and laughs in the sun !" 

For this exquisite description the poet may be forgiven the 
obnoxious passage about physiognomy. It would redeem a darker 
sin. If any man were to find a face like that of Nourmahal's 
concealing a cold and diabolical character, he might have some 
shadow of a reason to deny that there is a correspondence be- 
tween the features and the soul, though even in such a case the 
shock that the discovery would occasion would be a sufficient 



ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 187 

proof that anomalies of this nature are extremely rare and strik- 
ingly at variance with our general experience. Lavater lays 
great stress on the very unequivocal and decisive character of a 
laugh. If it be free and hearty, and occasion a general and light 
movement in all the features, and dimple the cheek and chin, it 
is an almost infallible evidence of the absence of any great natural 
wickedness of disposition. In judging of the character from the 
countenance, it is of great importance to observe which emotions 
are most happily expressed. The frequency of a smile is not so 
true a sign of gentleness and good humour as its facility. 

In considering the truth or falsehood of the general p^^oposi- 
tion that the body corresponds with the soul, we may fairly illus- 
trate it by extreme cases. No man for instance connects in his 
o^-n mind corporeal deformity with a perfect beauty of soul. As 
we cannot conceive pure unembodied spirit, we give it a fleshly 
but most glorious external. An angel with a low monkey fore- 
head and a flat or a pug nose, is a contradiction which neither 
reason nor fancy can whoUy reconcile. We derive this impres- 
sion of the fitness of things from Nature herself, who reveals the 
harmony of the mysterious system which connects the flesh and 
the spirit of edl mortal beings. Occasional and slight deviations 
from the general rule do not shake the faith of philosophic minds. 
Even admitting (but only, however, for the sake of the argument) 
that some of the most amiable and intellectual men have had the 
faces of villains and of idiots ; what does it prove ? Such excep- 
tions are not more remarkable than the occasional monstrous 
births of men and brutes. Because some individuals have been 
born with two heads or a hairy hide, it is not the less a law of 
nature that mankind have only one head a piece, and smooth un- 
covered skins. 

The majestic external conformation of the greatest poets and 
philosophers, both of ancient and modern times, is a strong 
evidence in favour of physiognomy. The heads of these men are 
2 B 2 



188 ON PHYSIOGNOMY. 

all more or less indicative of their mental character. Montaigne 
indeed laments the ugliness of Socrates, and repeats the well 
known anecdote of the physiognomical judgment passed on him 
by Zopyrus, that he was " stupid, brutal, sensual and addicted to 
drunkenness." With respect to the original moral qualities of the 
philosopher, the decision was not erroneous, for Socrates himself 
admitted that his virtues were a hard-gained triumph over his 
natural disposition. But the philosopher's forehead was a fitting 
tabernacle for a lofty mind. No craniologist would have doubt- 
ed his intellectual power. The skill of Zopyrus was confined to 
the perusal of the lower features. 

How delightful is the study of the human head ! It is a mys- 
tery and a glory ! It at once perplexes the reason and kindles 
the imagination ! What a wondrous treasury of knowledge — 
what a vast world of thought is contained within its ivory walls ! 
In that small citadel of the soul what a host of mighty and im- 
mortal images are ranged uncrowded! What floods of external 
light and what an endless variety of sounds are admitted to the 
busy world within, through those small but beautiful apertures, 
the eye and the ear ! Those dehcately penciled arches that hang 
their lines of loveliness above the mental heaven, are more full of 
grace and glory than the rainbow ! Those blue windows of the 
mind expose a sight more lovely and profound than the azure 
depths of the sea or sky ! Those rosy portals that give entrance 
to the invisible Spirit of Life, and whence issue those " winged 
words" that steal into the lover's heart or the sage's mind, or fly 
to the uttermost corners of the earth and live for ever, surpass in 
beauty the orient cloud-gates of the dawn ! To trace in such 
exquisite outworks the state of the interior is an occupation 
almost worthy of a God ! 



[ 189 ] 



THE FATE OF THE BRAVE. 



The Hero conquers pain and death 
Who proudly yields a transient breath 

For immortality ; 
A dark oblivion doth not fall 
Around him, like a funeral pall, 

As when the dull herd die ! 
II. 
But oft his glory forms the light 
That never dies of visions bright 

That gifted bards inflame ; — 
And ever like a guiding star 
It gilds the rough red seas of war. 

And shows the path to fame. 
III. 
Though pale and tremulous lips may swear 
That life is sweet and fame is air. 

The taunt ne'er stirs the brave ; 
For oh ! how pitiful and brief 
The life that like a scentless leaf 

Can charm not from the grave. 

IV. 

The purest spirits of the sky 
May still revert with partial eye 

To all they loved below. 
And, while their honored offspring share 
The lustre of the name they bear. 

With tender transport glow. 



190 A DULL CALM. 

V. 

Oh ! who then would not dare the death 
Tlaat heroes die, and seize the wreath 

No mortal blast may blight ? 
The general doom that mocks his kind 
He half defies who leaves behind 

A trail of living light ! 



A DULL CALM. 

The moon is high. 

But still her beam 

Is pale, and partly shrouded ; — 

Unmoving vapours stain the sky, — 

The slumbering lake is clouded, 

Yet looks so calm 'tis hard to deem 

The tempest e'er hath ploughed it ! 

The groves are hushed, — 

And not a breath 

Disturbs their coverts green, — 

No boughs by fluttering wings are brushed, — 

Still hang the dew-drops sheen ; — 

'Tis like the fearful reign of death — 

A solemn trance serene ! 

It is an hour 

That well might fill 

The lightest heart with sadness ; — 

The silent gloom around hath power 

To banish aught of gladness — 

The good with awful dreams to thrill — 

The guilty — drive to madness ! 



[ 191 3 



FAME AND LOVE. 

I. 

I SOUGHT the halls of Fame, 
And raised a suppliant voice. 
But not one sound responsive breathed my name. 
Or bade my soul rejoice ! 

11. 

In comfortless despair 
To find ambition vain, 
I leave forlorn the paths of public care. 
And this low cot regain. 

III. 

As some remembered scene 
That charmed in sun-lit hours. 
Grows drear and dull when tempests intervene 
With wintry shades and showers ; 

IV, 

So every form of earth 
Obeys a mental change. 
And things that kindle in the light of mirth, 
In grief, are cold and strange. 

V. 

Thus wrapt in cheerless gloom. 
My home is home no more, 
The place looks lone, the plants less sweetly bloom. 
And charm not as before. 



192 FAME AND LOVE. 

VI. 

How dark the threshold seems, 

How dim the casement flowers. 

How sickly pale the star-like blossom gleams 

O'er these still jasmine bowers ! 

VII. 

A dread foreboding falls 
Ice-cold upon my heart, — 
Perhaps within these dear domestic walls 
Hath fierce Death hurled his dart ! 

VIII. 

But hark ! yon lattice shakes ! 
A female hand appears. 
And, lo ! the face whose smile of welcome makes 
Mine eyes forget their tears ! 



The roof with gladness rings — 
And quick feet tread the floor — • 
With joyous shout a rosy cherub flings 
Wide back my cottage door ! 

X. 

And oh, how diff"erent now 
The thoughts that thrill my frame ! 
I kiss with proud delight each dear one's brow. 
And dream no more of fame. 



[ 193 ] 



ON EGOTISM. 



Egotism is not always connected with pure selfishness, or 
an arrogant over-estimate of our own merit in opposition to the 
claims of others. Self-love is not essentially exclusive. A 
man may have a very high regard for himself, without having less 
for others. The vain are often warm-hearted. What is called 
egotism is sometimes nothing more than that almost unconscious 
overflow of mingled cordiality and self-content which are remark- 
able in men of great fervour and vivacity of feeling. When 
people are in good humour with themselves they are generally 
disposed to be well satisfied with others, and in that open 
confidence in which even reserved men will occasionally indulge 
in moments of hilarity and cheerfulness, egotism is the reverse 
of all that is exclusive or unsocial. The French are great egotists, 
but they are at the same time the most agreeable, the most polite 
and the most considerate people in the world. If they do 
not conceal their talents under a veil of false humility, they at 
aU events contrive that their own pretensions shall not materi- 
ally interfere with the comfort and self-complacency of their 
associates. They do not seek to elevate themselves at the expense 
of others. 

Egotism is especially offensive to egotists. We always hate 
to see our own faults in other men. The really selfish man is not 
always he who talks most about himself, for reserve under the 
mask of modesty often conceals a heartless exclusiveness that is 
utterly unknown to the garrulous and self-laudatory. We usually 
judge of our fellow-creatures by ourselves, and as an egotist of 
the worst species is impatient of the claims of others, he naturally 
2 c 



194 ON EGOTISM. 

preserves a cautious silence, as he does not expect that sympathy 
from his companions which they never obtain from him. He 
thinks that all men will view his pretensions with the same invi- 
dious eye with which he looks on theirs. The frank and candid 
egotist, on the other hand, who 

■ " pours out all as plain 



As downright Shippen or as old Montaigne," 

not having experienced any uneasy sensation at the preten- 
sions of others, anticipates no want of a generous recipro- 
city of feeling towards himself. The silent egotist is a far less 
amiable character than the talkative one. The one is cold, 
intolerant and splenetic ; the other frank, cordial and confiding. 
Women are undoubtedly greater egotists than men, and yet they 
are far more social and less selfish. They will run on for ever 
about their own children or relatives or their own domestic 
afi"airs, but then they are equally ready to attend to the concerns 
of others. They never dream of giving offence by making their 
own Uttle interests the topics of conversation, because they do 
not grow impatient when it is their turn to listen. That women 
are not egotists in the worst sense of the term, is clear from the 
generous devotion with which they will undergo any pain, or 
trouble or fatigue for those whom they love, or even for strangers 
who may stand in need of their sympathy and assistance. 

It is a sad affectation to pretend an utter indifference to one's 
own fame, or to speak with extreme disparagement of one's own 
powers. Mock-modesty is more disgusting than extravagant 
self-praise, because the last is at least sincere, while the first is 
hypocritical. The one is a mere weakness, the other borders 
upon crime, as all deceit and falsehood must do. Self-love is so 
much a law of our nature that it is idle to affect a superiority to it. 
A man might as well attempt to persuade us that he deliberately 
prefers pain to pleasure, as that he has no partiality to himself. 



ON EGOTISM. 195 

Without this feehng he can scarcely have a sense of his own 
identity. It is only in modern times, and in very courtly and 
insincere societies, that men have found it necessary to conceal 
their self-approbation. The ancients publicly applauded their 
own actions and boasted of their fame, and savages, who have 
not learned to conceal their nature, record their own personal 
exploits in the presence of their assembled countrymen. " If 
you desire glory," says Epicurus, writing to a friend, " nothing 
can bestow it more than the letters which I write to you ;" and 
Seneca, observes D'Israeli, in quoting these words, adds, " what 
Epicurus promised to his friend, that, my Lucilius, I promise 
to you." Lucan has not hesitated to speak of his own immortality. 
In the following passage from the ninth book of the Pharsalia 
(as translated by Rowe) he thus proudly asserts his own merits. 

Nor Caesar thou disdain, that I rehearse 
Thee and thy wars in no ignoble verse ; 
Since if in aught the Latian muse excel, 
My name and thine immortal I foretel ; 
Eternity our labours shall reward. 
And Lucan flourish, like the Grecian bard ; 
My numbers shall to latent times convey 
The tyrant Csesar, and Pharsalia's day. 

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, has expressed a similar sentiment 
with equal boldness. 

" Come, soon or late, death's undetermined day, 
This mortal being only can decay ; 
My nobler part, my fame, shall reach the skies, 
And to late times with blooming honors rise ; 
Whate'er the unbounded Roman power obeys, 
All climes and nations shall record my praise : 
If 'tis allowed to poets to divine, 
One half of round eternity is mine." 

Perhaps if men could really know themselves, and only take 
credit for their actual merits, the world would be less impatient 
of their self-laudations. What raises our indignation is the feel- 
2 c 2 



196 ON EGOTISM. 

ing that their claims exceed their deserts, or that the latter are 
at least doubtful and require confirmation. Nobody is offended 
at the self-consciousness of indisputable genius, when it does not 
exceed the hmits of strict truth and justice. When a man speaks 
correctly and with a modest pride of his own capacity, no one 
has either a right or an inclination to complain. There is a 
natural sense of justice in the human mind. A real claim is 
always willingly conceded as soon as it is fairly proved. It is 
only when, like the fly upon the chariot-wheel, some insignificant 
human insect imagines he raises all the dust and turmoil of the 
world, that we feel disposed to be angry at his foUy and presump- 
tion. We are not so much vexed at a man's turning his own 
trumpeter, as at his giving himself titles which are not his due. 

It occasionally happens that what we take for an overweening 
self-conceit is quite the reverse. A man will sometimes talk of 
his talents and acquirements from a painful mistrust, both of his 
own judgment and of the feelings of others. He craves their 
sympathy and support. In the same way individuals of a certain 
fixed rank in society never trouble themselves about it, while 
those whose station is more equivocal are for ever talking of 
their rights of precedency and distinction. Noblemen think and 
speak less of their titles than tradesmen of their gentiUty. A 
man of mere wealth is jealous of hereditary rank or the claims of 
genius, and when he rings his purse in our ears it is only to con- 
ceal his real uneasiness with respect to the doubtful nature of his 
position. 

The most offensive kind of egotism is, " the pride that apes 
humility." There are authors and eminent men who mince their 
greatness, and make themselves small in company, from a dread 
of exciting too much envy, or of throwing all their associates 
into a disheartening shade. They talk on trifling matters only, 
and with an affectation of simplicity, as men, let themselves down 
to children. Thev will not " turn their silver huing" on the 



ON EGOTISM, 197 

sight of their ordinary acquaintance. They wish not to dazzle 
their admirers with excess of brightness. They check the ex- 
pression of their subHmer thoughts, and look mild and gracious. 
Tliey are modest in their triumphs, 

" And of their port as meek as is a maid." 

Such proud condescension is insufferably disgusting, and is suffi- 
cient to irritate a saint. It cannot be denied that there is a slight 
touch of this species of egotism in Addison's Spectator. His 
affectation of lowering himself to the understanding of the ladies 
is a very bad compliment to his fair readers, and not very credita- 
ble to himself. Allowances, however, must be made for the low 
standard of female accomplishments at the period at which he 
wrote ; and we must also admit that the extreme elegance, the 
benevolent feeling, and the vein of quiet humour which charac- 
terize his essays make us disposed to forget a little too much 
self-complacency and pretension. But still Addison was not 
altogether an amiable egotist. He was too apt to give his little 
senate laws, and to look askance at the best efforts of his rivals. 
His celebrated quarrel with Pope and the latter's exquisite satire 
upon the occasion, have placed the ungenerous nature of his egot- 
ism in a light as strong as it is unfavourable. Pope was no less an 
egotist than Addison, but his egotism took a more generous turn. 
Addison's authorial egotism, however, was not generally offen- 
sive, for he had too nice a sense of his own reputation and influ- 
ence as a writer to betray any unworthy jealousies to the public. 
It was in private life, that his uneasy reserve, his impatience of 
equality, and his love of small flatterers and sycophants, gave so 
much real cause of regret to the better order of his admirers, 

" It is a hard and nice subject," says Cowley, " for a man to 
speak of himself ; it grates his own heart to say any thing of 
disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any praise from 
him." Cowley, however, was himself an egotist, and ventured 



198 ON EGOTISM. 

to grapple with the difficulty of which he speaks. There is no 
douht that self is a very dehcate and dangerous theme, not exactly 
because a man cannot say any thing in his own praise without 
presumption, but because the subject is so delightful to himself, 
and at the same time so rife with delusion, that he is apt to be 
carried away by his enthusiasm into an extravagant and absurd 
over-estimate of his own merits. If we are candid in our egotism, 
and exult only in the right place, and do not weary the reader or 
the hearer with a too elaborate detail, we may not only escape 
the giving actual offence, but excite a sympathy in our favour. 
The personal feelings and peculiarities of real genius are always 
interesting to the public, and it is difficult to conceive any species 
of writing more pleasant than a great man's autobiography. 
There is no page of Hume's History of England that we read 
with deeper interest than the brief but beautiful life by which it 
is preceded. It is a model of graceful self-history. Sir Walter 
Scott was also a most agreeable egotist. His little personal al- 
lusions and reminiscences are almost as precious as his inimitable 
fictions. The reason why the egotism of some writers is un- 
pleasing, is not that they talk too much, but too extravagantly, of 
their own powers, and too contemptuously of their opponents. 
When a man ventures to estimate his own genius he cannot be too 
cautious of taking more than he deserves, or of doing injustice to 
others. In either case he commits an error peculiarly offensive 
to the rest of mankind. 

It has been made a question whether true genius is conscious 
of its powers, but I think there can be little doubt upon the sub- 
ject. It is certain that both Milton and Shakespeare were fully 
aware of the greatness of their endowments, though a modern 
Essayist has maintained that the ease with which the latter pro- 
duced his works is an argument against his possession of any 
great self-satisfaction on their account. I do not think so. 
Both the author and the artist have a proud consciousness of 



ON EGOTISM. 199 

their power when they dash off some wondrous work with a mas- 
terly hand, and with the rapidity and happiness of inspiration. 
They are often perhaps as much struck with the beauty of their 
own creations as the admiring world is. Shakspeare's Sonnets, 
which by their personal traits have so delighted the two Schlegels, 
who are puzzled to account for the neglect with which they 
have been treated bv the poet's own countrymen, abound in illus- 
trations of that proud and lofty confidence with which the writer 
anticipated his immortality. The following noble sonnet will 
afford a specimen of the style in which this great man dared 
to speak of his own fame : 

" Not murhle, nor the gilded monuments 

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhime ; 

But you sliall shine more bright in these contents 

Thou unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time. 

When wasteful war shall statues overturn, 

And broils root out the work of masonry, 

Nor Marsis' sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn 

The living record of your memory. 

'Gainst death and all oblivious enmity 

Shall you pace forth ; your praise shall still jind room, 

E'en in the eyes of all posterity 

That icear this ivorld out to the ending doom. 

So till the judgment that yourself arise 

You live in this, and dwell in lover's eyes." 

Milton's glorious egotism is almost as conspicuous as his 
genius. He felt that he had produced a work which " the world 
would not willingly let die*." Dr. Johnson has touchingly 
remarked, that " fancy can hardly forbear to conjecture with what 
temper Milton surveyed the silent progress of his work, and 
marked its reputation stealing its way in a kind of subterranean cur- 

* In the " Paradise Lost" — indeed in every one of his poems — it is Milton 
himself whom you see ; his Satan, his Adam, his Raphael, almost his Eve— are 
all John Milton ; and it is a sense of this intense egotism that gives me the 
greatest pleasure in reading Milton's works. The egotism of such a man is a 
revelation of spirit, — Coleridge's Table Talk. 



200 ON EGOTISM. 

rent through fear and silence." " I cannot," he continues, " but 
conceive him calm and confident, httle disappointed, not at all 
dejected, relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, 
and waiting without impatience the vicissitudes of opinion and 
the impartiahty of a future generation." There can be little 
doubt that he was supported by this " sober certainty" of future 
fame. Milton was not the man to be easily disheartened, even 
though he had fallen on evil days, and was " with dangers and 
affictions compassed round." The fortitude of Milton was sub- 
lime. Let him speak for himself, in his own noble and immortal 
numbers. 

"Cyriack, this three year's day these eyes, though clear 
To outward view of blemish or of spot, 
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot : 
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear 
Of sun or moon or star, throughout the year, 
Or man or woman. Yet I argue not 
Against Heaven s hand or will, nor bate a jot 
Of heart or hope ; hut still bear up and steer 
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask ? 
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied 
In liberty's defence, mi/ noble task 
Of which all Europe rings from side to side : 
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask, 
Content though blind, had I no better guide." 

There is something particularly impressive and afi"ecting in the 
fact, that with the dignity of a prophet Milton always prepared 
himself for any great intellectual task by devout prayer to that 
eternal Spirit 

" Who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire." 

He reminds us of that period alluded to by Cowper, when 

" The sacred name 

Of Poet and of Prophet was the same." 

In one of his prose works, Milton has the following reference to 
his poetical powers. 



ON EGOTISM. 201 

" Tliese nfc//ifies, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God 
rarely bestoived, but yet to some, though most abuse, in every nation ; and 
are of power, — to hibreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtne, 
and pubhc civihty, to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affec- 
tions in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and 
equipage of God's almightiness," S^c. 

When I once enter upon these quotations it is difficult to know 
v?here to stop ; and though it is somew'hat apart from the main 
purpose of this essay, I cannot resist the temptation of adding the 
following exquisite sentence, in which Milton alludes to his un- 
willing entrance upon bitter controversies. His prose is as 
peetical and vigorous as his verse : 

" I trust hereby to make it manifest with what small willingness I 
endure to interrupt the pursuit of no less hopes than these" (alluding to 
his poetical schemes), " and leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed 
witli cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises 
and hoarse disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of truth 
in the quiet and still air if delightful studies.^' 

Such a writer as Milton might well essay the height of some 
great argument, 

" Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,'' 

and demand the respect and gratitude of mankind. He could 
hardly form too high an estimate of his powers. An affectation of 
modesty in a w^riter of such vast intellect would be almost as 
ridiculous as the presumption of a poetaster. A powerful man is 
necessarily conscious of his strength, unless he is sunk in an 
eternal lethai'gy or slumber. To suppose a strong mind utterly 
unconscious of the force which it exerts is as absurd as to suppose 
a similar unconsciousness in the case of physical energy. 

The sin of egotism is more frequently laid to the charge of 
literary men than any other class of people, but perhaps with 
little reason. There is not much difference between egotism in 
print and egotism in conversation. Nor is it more surprising 
that authors should interest themselves in the merits and fortunes 

2 D 



202 ON EGOTISM. 

of the offspring of tlieir brain than that parents should cherish a 
bhnd partiahty for their children. The affection seems natural 
and instinctive in either case. 

If authors (hke other men) are egotists, they are not to be too 
indiscriminately condemned on that account. There is a great 
variety of egotism, and only that kind is disgusting or ridiculous 
which is either unsupported by correspondent excellence, or is 
connected with selfishness, envy and detraction. Chaucer, the 
venerable father of English poetry, in his " Testament of Love," 
a work which chiefly consists of a dialogue between a prisoner* 
(Chaucer himself) and Love, does not hesitate to do full justice to 
his own merits. He makes Love thus speak of him : — 

" Myne owne true sen'aunte, the noble philosopbicall poete in En^lishe 
(whiche evermore hyme busieth and tvavaileth right sore my name to in- 
crese ; wherefore all that willen me gode, owe to do him worship and 
reverence both ; truly his better ne his pere in schole of my rules could 
I never finde) — He quod she, in a tretise that he made of my senaunte 
Troilus, hath this matter touched, and at the full this question assoitedf. 
Certainly his noble sayinsfs can I not emend : in godeness of gentil man- 
lich spech without any maner of nicitie of storieres ima^inacion, in wit, 
and in gode reason of sentence:^, he passeth al other makers§.'' 

Dryden confesses his own self-esteem, and after obsej-ving that 
he has " grown old in seeking so barren a reward as fame," he 
adds : — "The same parts and application which have made me a 
poet, might have raised me to the highest honours of the gown." 
To whom is such a truth as this offensive ? When some one con- 
gratulated him on the merit of his celebrated Ode, "You are right," 
he replied ; a " nobler ode was never produced, and never will be." 
Self-confidence, as Johnson justly observes, is the first requisite to 
great undertakings. It was the felicity of Pope, says the same writer. 



* A reference to his own condition as a prisoner in the Tower, where he was 
confined, it is believed, for two or three years for a political offence, 
t Solved. i Judgment. § Poets. 



ON EGOTISM. 203 

to rate himself at his real value. Pope was not, however, always a 
candid egotist, but would endeavour to escape from the imputa- 
tion of vanity by some miserable subterfuge, such as aflecting 
an indifference to poetical reputation, though he was beyond 
all doubt " a fool to fame" from his early childhood to the 
latest hour of his life. He would sometimes also pretend 
an indifference to criticism, an affectation which his actions so 
glaringly conti'adicted that a child could have seen his insinceri- 
ty. If Pope had been interdicted the use of the press, and pre- 
vented from reading his productions to his friends, he would 
have written fewer verses. His public egotism forms the most 
delightful feature in his writings. He is singularly ha2)py in 
his allusions to himself and his own friends. Lord Bacon was 
an egotist of the boldest order, and never doubted his immortality 
for a moment. Buffon said that of the great geniuses of modern 
times there were but five, " Newton, Bacon, Leibnitz, Montes- 
quieu, and himself." " When I am dead you will not easily meet 
with another John Hunter," said that celebrated anatomist to his 
friends. These instances are alluded to by D' Israeli, who quotes 
also the bold avowal of Kepler : — " I dare insult mankind by con- 
fessing that I am he who has turned science to advantage. If I 
am pardoned, I shall rejoice ; if blamed, I shall endure it. The 
die is cast ; 1 have written this book, and whether it be read by 
posterity or by my contemporaries, is of no consequence ; it may 
well wait for a reader during one century, when God himself 
during six thousand years has waited for an observer like myself." 
We learn from Burney's History of Music that the fiddler Veracini 
said with impious arrogance, that there was but one God and 
one Veracini. Shenstone has recorded his thoughts and feelings, 
and frankly entitled them " Egotisms., from my own sensations." 
Walter Savage Landor has promised the public an historical 
•work, and is persuaded, he says, that he will not be " con- 
founded by posterity with the Coxes and Foxes of the age." 
2 D 2 



204 ON KGOTISM. 

Rousseau was a daring and yet a delightful egotist. His pas- 
sionate eloquence hurries us along with such breathless rapidity 
over his burning pages, that we have no time to dwell upon his 
faults. Montaigne is one of the happiest writers on the delicate 
theme of self that we are yet acquainted with. Addison quotes 
the caustic attack of the younger Scahger on the lively old Gascon. 
" For my part," says Montaigne, " I am a great lover of your 
white wines." " What in the world signifies it to the public," 
says Scaliger, " whether he was a lover of white wines or 
red ?" Addison, who owed something to the father of modern 
Essayists, ought not to have quoted this taunt without softening 
it down with a kind word or two of explanation or defence. If 
Montaigne had talked about nothing but his taste in wine, and 
entered into disquisitions on such trivial matters only, he would 
long ago have been forgotten. Montaigne talks on to the public 
with the same unaffected ease as he would have conversed with 
his most familiar friends, and the great charm of his essays is 
their free and unaffected alternation 

" From grave to gay, from lively to severe." 

Addison is rather hard in one of his papers on the whole tribe of 
egotists, forgetting the egotistical character of all Essayists and 
his own individual foibles. His indiscriminate censure of egotism 
is inconsistent with his often quoted remarks in the first number 
of the Spectator, in which he explains how much more we are 
interested in a work when we know something of the author. 
" I have observed," says he, "that a reader seldom peruses a 
book with pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a 
black man or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married 
or a bachelor, with other particulars of a like nature, that conduce 
veiy much to the right understanding of an author." 

It is certain that if Montaigne had written less about him- 
self, he would have been less aniusine: and instructive. He was 



ON EGOTISM. 205 

a great talker, as well as a free and social writer, so that his 
egotism was the result of a general spirit of communicativeness. 
Other writers have been induced to pour forth their secrets into 
the public ear from the difficulty of finding some congenial pri- 
vate listener, from some defect of speech, or from a want of nerve 
or confidence in society. Addison, from whatever cause, was 
silent in company, and it must have been delightful to him to 
relieve his breast of the weight of suppressed thought in his 
elegant yet familiar essays. " Since," says he, in the first num- 
ber of the Spectator, " I have neither time nor inclination to com- 
municate the fulness of my heart in speech, I am resolved to do it 
in writing, and to print myself out, if possible, before I die." We 
doubtless owe many of Cowper's poems to a similar feeling. The 
less that sensitive egotist was able to communicate himself to his 
own private cii'cle, the more garrulous he became in public. 
When his tongue failed him, he flew to his pen. The fire and 
point of his published satires, and the egotism of much of his 
poetry, were partly the result of a mere re-action of feeling after 
his painful timidity and forced reseive in private. He has given 
us a little revelation from his own heart in his poem on Conversa- 
tion. 

" The cause perl)aps inquiry may descry 
SeU'-searcliin<^ with an introverted eye, 
Concealed within an unsuspected purt, 
The vainest corner of our own vain heart ; 
For ever aiming at the world's esteem, 
Our self-importance ruins its own scheme. 
In other eyes our talents rarely shown. 
Become at length so splendid in our own 
We dare not risk them into public view, 
Lest they miscarry of what seems their due." 

Pope is said to have been restrained in conversation from a dread 
of the man saying something unworthy of the poet. No apprehen- 
sion of this nature seems to have checked the volubility of Cole- 



206 ON EGOTISM. 

ridge, who loved to hear the sound of his own voice. He, however, 
required undivided and most respectful attention in his audience, 
or his self-complacency was disturbed. He was satisfied with 
nothing- short of an entire monopoly of speech. The slightest in- 
terruption brought him to a dead stop. He was rather a lecturer 
than a talker. He was a lay-preacher. He had no idea of dialogue. 
Dr. Johnson, though more dogmatical, was more magnanimous ; 
and though he triumphed over his opponents in a very summary 
way, the collision of different opinions, instead of making him silent, 
sullen and disdainful, struck out the finest scintillations from his 
ow^n mind. Coleridge was an egotist both as a man and as an 
author. His Biographia Literaria is intensely personal. One of 
the most daring egotists of modern times is William Cobbett. 
His self-praise and self-assurance are sometimes carried to such a 
length that we almost doubt if he is serious. It looks like cari- 
cature, a wild quiz, or a wicked invention of the enemy. Yet his 
manner is so open, hearty and unafi'ected, that the most fastidious 
reader is rather amused than offended. ^Yhen compared with the 
sneaking, shuflHing and under-hand tricks of more cautious 
writers, who would play the same game if they had but the same 
courage, its eft'ect is " quite refreshing." Byron was such an 
egotist that all his poetical heroes were mere personifications of 
himself. An intense egotism is inconsistent with the dramatic 
faculty. In his Childe Harold he speaks of his future fame, 

" I twine 

]\Jy hopes of being remembered in my line 
V\ ith my land's language." 

Wordsworth's poems are " moods of his own mind." In one of 
his prefaces he does not hesitate to express his contempt for the 
critics, and his consciousness of his own powers. 

" If," says he, " bearing in mind tlie many poets distinguished by 
this prime faculty" (the imagination) " whose names I omit to mention, 
yet justified by a recollection of the insults which the ignorant, the incapa- 



ON EGOTISM. 207 

ble and the presumptuous have heaped upon my writings, I may be 
permitted to anticipate the judgment of posterity upon myself, I shall 
declare (censurable, I grant, if the notoriety of the fact above stated does not 
justify me) that I have given evidence of exertions of this faculty upon its 
worthiest objects, the external universe, the moral and religious sentiments 
of man, his natiu'al affections and his acquired passions, which have the 
same ennobling tendency as the productions of men, in this kind, wortliy 
to be holden in undying remembrance." 

Hazlitt is an egotistical writer, and is never afraid to praise his 
own writings, though he does not say more of them than they 
actually deserve. The following passage seems to have been 
wrung from him by the attacks of Blackwood and the Quarterly : — 

" If the reader is not already apprized of it, he will please to take notice 
that 1 write this at Winterslovv. My style here is apt to be redundant and 
excursive. At other times it may be cramped, dry, abrupt ; but here it 
flows like a river, and overspreads its banks. I have not to seek for 
thoughts or hunt for images : they come of themselves, I inhale them with 
the breeze, and the silent groves are vocal with a thousand recollections. — 
' And visions, as poetic eyes avow, 
Hang on each leaf, and cling to ev'ry bough.' 
" Here I came fifteen years ago, a willing exile ; and as I trod the 
lengthened greensward by the low wood-side, repeated the old line, 
' ]My mind to me a kingdom is !' 

" I found it so then, before, and since ; and shall I faint now that I 
have poured out the spirit of that mind to the world, and treated many 
subjects with truth, with freedom, and power, because I have been follow- 
ed with one cry of abuse ever since yb/- not being a government-tool ? Here I 
returned a few years after to finish some works I had undertaken, doubtful 
of the event, but determined to do my best; and wrote that character of 
Milimant which was once transcribed by fingers fairer than Aurora's, but 
no notice was taken of it, because I was not a government-tool, and must 
be supposed devoid of taste and elegance by all who aspired to these 
qualities in their own persons. Here I sketched my account of that old 
honest Signior Orlando Friscobaldo, which with its fine, racy, acrid tone 
that old crab-apple, G*ff***d, would have relished or pretended to relish, 
had I been a government-tool ! Here too I have written Table- Talks 
without number, and as yet without a falling off, till now that they are 
nearly done, or I should not make this boast. / could swear (were they 
not mine) the thoughts in mani/ of them are founded as a rock, free as air, 
the tone like an Italian picture. \Fhat then ? Had the style been like 



208 ON EGOTISM. 

polished steel, ns firm and as briqlit, it would have availed me nothinpf, 
for I am not a government-tool ! I had endeavoured to guide the taste of 
the English people to the best English writers ; but I had said tliat 
English kings did not reign by right divine, and that his present majesty 
was descended from an elector of Hanover in a right line ; and no loyal 
subject would after this look into Webster or Deckar, because I had 
pointed them out. I had done something (more than any one except 
Schlegel) to vindicate the c/iaracfer of SluikHpcures Plai/s from the stigma 
of French criticism ; but our Antijacobin and Anti-Gallican writers soon 
found out that I had said and written that Frenchmen, Englishmen, men, 
were not slaves by birthright. This was enough to damn the work. 
Such has been the head and front of my offending." 

" I have let tliis passage stand, however critical," adds the 
author, " because it may serve as a practical illustration of what 
writers think of themselves when put upon the defensive." His 
friend Leigh Hunt, who talks to the public as if the whole world 
were at his fire-side, does not speak quite so decidedly of his own 
talents, but he never loses an opportunity of opening out his 
heart. But with all his egotism, Hunt is one of the most gener- 
ous and sympathizing of human beings. He affords a strong 
illustration of the distinction between a certain kind of egotism 
and mere selfishness. Poor Goldsmith was the most amusing of 
egotists. He could never suppi'ess his self-conceit. He was 
jealous of every thing and every body that divided the attention 
which he expected to be lavished on himself. When some 
beautiful young ladies attracted the attention of the company in 
his presence, he sullenly hinted that there were times and places 
in which he too was admired. This species of egotism was truly 
unworthy of such a man. Richardson, the Novelist, was guilty 
of a weakness equally degrading to a mind like his. He would 
never let any visitor escape the hearing of some of his produc- 
tions ; and once in a large company, when a gentleman just arrived 
from Paris, told him that he had seen one of his novels on the 
French King's table, he pretended not to hear, because the rest 
of the company were at the moment busily engaged on other 



ON EGOTISM. 209 

subjects. He waited sometime for a pause, and then inquired 
■with affected carelessness, " What, Sir, was that which you were 
just saying about the French King." " Oh ! nothing of any 
consequence," rephed his informant, disgusted with the trick, 
and resolved to punish him. No literary man exceeds Boswell in 
contemptible self-conceit. His faihng is too well known to need 
an illustration. Sir Godfrey Kneller was an awful egotist. I 
have an indistinct recollection of some outrageous and profane 
boast of his, connected with his merit as a painter. 

The Critical Review (I know not in what number nor in what 
year, for I take the passage from a quotation in Boswell's life of 
Johnson), makes the following classitication of egotists : 

" \\e may reduce the egotists to four classes. In the first we liave 
Julius Cffisar : lie relates his own transactions ; but he relates them with 
peculiar grace and dignity, and bis narrative is supported by the greatness 
of his character and achievements. In the second class we have ^larcus 
Antoninus : this writer has given us a series of reflections on his own life; 
but his sentiments are so noble, his morality so sublime, that his meditations 
are universally admired. In the third class we have some others of 
tolerable credit, who have given importance to their own private history 
by an intermixture of literary anecdotes, and the occurrences of their own 
times; the celebrated Huetius has published an entertaining volume upon 
this plan, ' De Rebus iideum pertinentibua.'' In i\\Q fourth class we have 
tlie journalists, temporal and spiritual : Elias Ashmole, William Silly, 
George Whitefield, John Wesley, and a thousand other old women and 
fiinatic writers of memoirs and meditations." 

Tliis is a very imperfect classification, notwithstanding Dr. 
Johnson's approbation of it. In which class should those egotists 
be placed who, like Lord Byron and William Wordsworth, mould 
all the creations of their fancy into images of themselves ? 

I repeat, tbat all men and women are egotists in their way, and 
that self-praise and self-love arc offensive and contemptible only 
when they exceed the bounds of justice, and are linked to envy, 
hatred and all uncharitableness. When we take vast credit to 
ourselves for unworthy trifles, or make ourselves ridiculous by 

2 E 



210 DAWN. 

pretending to more virtue or genius than we possess, or allow a 
spirit of exclusiveness or jealousy to blind us to the merits of 
others, there are few qualities which are more odious than 
egotism*. But these offensive peculiarities are not necessarily 
connected with a fair and proper pride. Without a certain 
degree of self-confidence and self-esteem, no man can ever become 
eminently great or good ; and it would be difficult to say why any 
one should be compelled, out of a deference to the mean and envious 
part of mankind, to assume an unconsciousness of that merit which 
raises him above them. 



DAWN. 

How fair and gay the scene appears ! 
The red sun cheers the rising day ; 
The dewy mountain, the crystal fountain 
Are glittering bright in orient light. 

The lark that floats serene on high. 

And fills the sky with cheerful notes, 

The shepherd's singing, the light bells ringing. 

In union sweet the morning greet. 

Oh ! who could rove at such an hour 
Bv shrub and flower, in mead or grove. 
Without revealing responsive feeling, 
While Nature's voice bids man rejoice ! 



* The more decorous manners of the present ace have attached a dispropor- 
tionate opprobrium to this foible, and many therefore abstain with cautious 
prudence from all displays of what they feel. Nay, some do actually flatter 
themselves that they abhor all egotism, and never betray it in their writings or 
discourse. But watch these men narrowly ; and in the greater number of cases 
you will find their thoughts and feelings and mode of expression saturated with 
the passion of contempt, which is the concentrated vinegar of egotism. — Coleridge. 



[ 211 ] 



LIFE. 

I. 

Alas ! what mystic changes mark 

Our pilgrimage below ! 
As fitful as the fire-fly's spark 

The gleams of pleasure glow. 
And leave the startled spirit dark 

Beneath the night of woe ! 
II. 
We learn not why the lustre dies. 

Nor why the darkness spreads ; 
For oft on Penury's wintry skies 

The soul its sun-light sheds ; 
"While wreaths that Fortune's votaries prize 

Are placed on aching heads. 
III. 
And e'en fair Virtue's holy spell 

Not always here avails ! 
Full many a noble heart may tell 

How oft her magic fails. 
When throngs of restless thoughts rebel, 

And hideous gloom prevails. 

IV. 

And what we hear, or what we see. 

And what we think, or feel ; 
As dream-hke as the clouds may be 

That through the twilight steal ! — 
Oh, God I each mortal mystery. 

Thou only canst reveal ! 
'2 K 2 



[ 212 ] 



AN INDIAN DAY. 

MORN. 

Lo ! Morning wakes upon the grey hill's brow, 
Raising the veil of mist meek Twilight wore ; — 
And hark ! from mangoe tope and tamarind bough 
The glad birds' matins ring ! On Gunga's shore 
Yon sable groups with ritual signs adore 
The rising liord of Day. Above the vale 
Behold the tall palmyra proudly soar, 
And wave his verdant wreath, — a lustre pale 
Gleams on the broad-fringed leaves that rustle in the gale. 

NOON. 

'Tis now the Noon-tide hour. No sounds arise 
To cheer the sultry calm, — deep silence reigns 
Among the drooping groves ; the fervid skies 
Glare on the slumbering wave ; on yon wide plains 
The zephyr dies, — no hope of rest detains 
The wanderer there ; the sun's meridian might 
No fragrant bower, no humid cloud restrains, — 
The silver rays, insufferably bright. 
Play on the fevered brow, and mock the dazzled sight ! 

NIGHT. 

The gentle Evening comes ! The gradual breeze. 
The milder radiance and the longer shade. 
Steal o'er the scene ! — Through slowly waving trees 
The pale moon smiles, — the minstrels of the glade 
Hail night's fair queen ; and, as the day-beams fade 
Along the crimson west, through twilight gloom 
The fire-fly darts ; and where, all lowly laid. 
The dead repose, the Moslem's hands illume 
The consecrated lamp o'er Beauty's hallowed tomb ! 



[ 213 J 
MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. 



The Elegiac Sonnets of Mrs. Charlotte Smith were once very 
popular compositions. I lately returned to them with a pleasura- 
ble feeling, for as I had not read them since my boyhood, when 
they seemed productions of extraordinary beauty, I was curious to 
discover the natui"e of the change that years and more extensive 
reading had effected in my taste. It is sufficiently remarkable 
how the same reader will sometimes fluctuate, at intervals, in his 
literary fancies ; but the fickleness of the public mind is still more 
surprising. How many once popular writers are now despised or 
forgotten, while some who were formerly neglected are regarded 
with idolatry ! With respect to the particular case of Charlotte 
Smith, I confess that my individual opinion has corresponded to 
a considerable extent with the variation of the general judgment ; 
and the verses that seemed very exquisite poetry to my boyish 
taste, make a very different impression upon me now. Her poems, 
ran through numerous and large editions on their first appearance, 
and it is curious to trace, in various contemporary publications, the 
respect with which they were treated by some of the first critics 
of her time*. Cowper, who was assuredly no mean judge of poe- 
tical excellence, speaks of her " charming Sonnetsf." It is true 

* The Gentleman's Magazine (of that day) gravely observed, that " it is trifling 
praise for Mrs. Smith's Sonnets to pronounce tliem superior to Siiakspeare's and 
Milton's." 

t Mathias, the author of the Pursuits of Literature, tlius alludes to her in one 
of the notes to that work : — " Mrs. Charlotte Smith has great poetical powers, 
and a pathos which commands attention." Sir Egerton Brydges, in the second 
edition of his Censura Literaria, speaks of her poetry in tlie following terms : — 
" There is so much unaffected elegance ; so much harmony and pathos in it ; the 
images are so soothing and so delightful ; and the sentiments so touching, so con- 
sonant to the best movements of the heart, that no reader of pure taste can grow 
weary of perusing them." In an article on Chalmers's English Poets (ap- 
parently by Southey) in the Quarterly Beview, No. 23, it is observed that 
" Charlotte Smith's descriptions, whether in prose or verse, have always the 
charm of well-selected truth." 



214 MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. 

that he also thought the frigid Hayley a poet, but at one period 
his taste would have been called in question if he had esteemed 
hitn less. The " Triumphs of Temper" did not try the temper of 
our ancestors, but was really, for a considerable period, a very 
popular performance. But Cowper himself was one of those who 
commenced the grand revolution in our poetical literature which 
brought such writers as his friends Hayley and Mrs. Smith into 
comparative contempt, and who first taught us by precept and exam- 
ple that Enghsh verse was capable of great improvement, notwith- 
standing what was long considered the actual perfection of Pope. 
I do not mean to fall into the too common injustice of those who 
think it necessary, when they admire the greater freedom and 
variety of the present systems of versification, to deny all merit 
to poetry of a different order. I am not exclusive in my taste, 
and can read alternately such poets as Coleridge and Pope with a 
disposition to enjoy and appreciate their very opposite and pecu- 
liar excellencies both of style and matter. The dreaminess, the 
profound intensity, and the subtle and mystical harmonies of the 
one, need not render us insensible to the terseness, the wit and 
energy, and the less elaborate, though more precise music of the 
other. The great facility with which Pope's manner was imitated 
by his followers was one cause of the decline of his popularity ; 
for when it was found that eveiy poetaster had got his tune by 
heart, the public grew sick of the repetition, and soon thought less 
respectfully of what at first was a mar\-el and a luxury. In this 
re-action of taste, the great poetical idol of his time is now as much 
depreciated as he was formerly over-rated ; and it seems by many 
critics to be utterly forgotten, that Pope's chief excellence is by 
no means dependent on the mere sound of his couplets. His 
works not only teem with wit and wisdom, expressed with won- 
derful felicity and precision, but display some of those finer and 
more ethereal qualities that ought long ago to have settled the idle 
question of, whether he was a true poet or merely a clever writer 



MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. 215 

in verse. His Rape of the Lock, and several descriptive passages 
in the Windsor Forest, afford indisputable evidence that he pos- 
sessed a fancy at once delicate and prolific, and that he could 
" look on nature w ith a poet's eye." If Pope had lived in later 
times, he would probably have been a very different kind of poet, 
and have attended more to the culture and development of his 
imagination. It was formerly the fashion to regard poets as mere 
" men of wit about town," but they are now expected to be at 
once fanciful and profound. People at last begin to make a dis- 
tinction between verse and poetry, and cleverness and genius. 
Mere talent in a poem is no longer respected as it used to be, for 
there is now a general love of poetry for its own sake, and read- 
ers look less for smart and pointed passages of shrewd sense 
and satire, than for thoughts and words steeped in the hues of ima- 
gination. The consequence is that a much higher and more ethe- 
real tone pervades the poetry of the day ; and readers, accustomed 
to strains of loftier mood, turn with something like disgust from 
the verses that charmed them in their earlier years. The old 
common-places of poetry no longer deceive us, and the artificial 
expressions in which many writers of mere verse once enveloped 
their sickly sentimentalities, and thus passed upon the world for 
poets, are now utterly discarded ; and if an author's style be not 
fresh and natural, he is not endured. Even Pope himself indulged 
too much in the use of epithets that were nothing more than 
sounding expletives, that became the more disgusting from their 
eternal repetition by his servile herd of imitators. 

The lady, to whose Sonnets I must now i-eturn, deals very libe- 
rally in the old fashioned diction, and in that querulous egotism 
and fantastic melancholy which were common to all her contempo- 
rary Sonneteers. According to their notions, to be truly poetical 
it was necessary to be sad, and the whole world was to be informed 
of their affliction. Anna Seward is severely witty on Mrs. Smith's 
Sonnets. " Never," she says, " were poetical whipt syllabubs in 



216 MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. 

black glasses so eagerly swallowed by the odd taste of the public." 
But Mrs. Smith was not, like too many of her contemporaries, a 
tuneful hypocrite ; for she really was acquainted with grief, and had 
no little cause for those " melodious tears," with which she gave 
herself to fame. She suffered severely from the fuilure of her 
husband's mercantile speculations, and the brutality and fraud of 
lawyers and guardians, who cheated her of a provision for her 
large family. Her domestic sorrows are very touchingly told in 
the prefaces to the different editions of her poems. Aware, there- 
fore, that her melancholy is no poetic fiction, though often rather 
affectedly expressed, we can read her Sonnets wdthout that sicken- 
ing sensation which is excited by the false and ridiculous sensibi- 
lities of the Delia Cruscan School. These little poems are not 
constructed on the Petrarchan model, and have no right to the 
title of sonnets, unless every poem in fourteen lines may be said 
to belong to that species of composition. But fourteen lines or 
three quatrains, and a concluding couplet, do not make a sonnet, 
if Petrarch and Dante in the Italian, and Milton and Wordsworth 
in our own language, are to be taken as authorities. In the metri- 
cal construction, and in the unity of design peculiar to the sonnet, 
these little compositions are all deficient. But if they are not 
legitimate Sonnets, several of them are very pretty and pleasing 
poems ; for, though I once thought far more highly of them than 
I now do, I can still see something in them to admire. They 
have a feminine pathos, and a delicacy and tenderness of senti- 
ment, that ought to save them from oblivion. Though the liquid 
smoothness of the versification, and the languid elegance of the 
diction may not suit an ear accustomed to the vigour and variety 
of later poems, I can remember that they gratified me in my 
younger days, and they have still a kind of charm for me that I 
am almost ashamed to acknowledge. Perhaps early associations, 
a reference to the feminine qualities of the fair author's mind, and 
a sympathy for her distresses, make me willing to be pleased in 



MRS. CHAKLOTTE SMITH. 217 

defiance of an increased experience and a maturer judgment. I 
have no doubt that it was a perusal of these Sonnets, (for such, as 
a matter of courtesy or convenience, they must be called,) that 
suggested those of Bovples, which are written in a similar 
strain of feeling, and perhaps with no great superiority in 
point of strength and originality. The versification, however, 
is rather more varied, and the metrical arrangement is, in 
some respects, a little closer to the Italian model. They have 
met with much the same fate. They as speedily ran through 
a number of editions, and were almost as speedily neglected. A 
great poet too, the author of Christabel, with whose own style 
they are so strikingly contrasted, has praised them with the same 
enthusiasm as did Cowper those of Charlotte Smith. Little de- 
pendence, it seems, is to be placed on the individual judgments of 
poets upon each other, whether favorable or adverse. Waller saw 
nothing in Milton, but an old blind school-master, who had written 
a dull poem remarkable for nothing but its length, Wordsworth 
and Coleridge think Gray's Elegy in a Country Church-yard a very 
meagre and common-place production ; and Byron insinuated that 
Pope was a greater poet than Shakspeare, and spoke very con- 
temptuously of Spenser. When doctors disagree, the general 
voice must decide upon disputed points, though even then we 
have no final judgment, for the public is often as fickle as a child. 
Tiiis is very perplexing to the poet, whose life is one dream of 
ambition. His only consolation is the hope that posterity will 
be more calm and constant ; and that, when the varying winds of 
contemporary opinion shall have died away, his bark may float 
securely upon the smooth waters of immortality. It is melancholv, 
however, to reflect how many who have once enjoyed a flattering 
popularity, and who have looked forward with a proud confidence 
to such a consummation, have passed from the memories of men 
like summer clouds. Charlotte Smith, elegant and refined as she 
is, is rapidly sinking into oblivion, and in a very few years will be 
2 F 



218 MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. 

utterly forgotten. In the meantime, as I have just spent a plea- 
sant half-hour over her little volume, let me show my gratitude 
to her gentle spirit, by such praises as I can conscientiously award 
her, and refresh the memory of my readers with a few favourable 
extracts. 

The following little poem, on seeing some children at play, has 
been quoted both by Bowles and Leigh Hunt, (poets of very 
different tastes and habits,) with considerable praise : 

*' Sighing I see yon little troop at play, 
By sorrow yet untouched, unhurt by care ; 
While free and sportive they enjoy to-day, 
Content and careless of to-morrow's fare. 
O happy age ! when hope's unclouded ray 
Lights their green path, and prompts their simple mirth, 
Ere yet they feel tlie thorns tliat lurking lay* 
To wound the wretched pilgrims of the earth, 
Making them rue the hour that gave them birth, 
And tlirew them on a world so full of pain. 
AVhere prosperous folly treads on patient worth. 
And to deaf pride, misfortune pleads in vain ! 
Ah! — for their future fate how many fears 
Oppress my heart and fill mine eyes with tears." 

Mrs. Smith's knowledge of Botany, to which science, by the 
way, she has addressed a sonnet, is displayed in a very pleasing 
manner in several of her poems ; and she rarely speaks of flowers 
without a minute fidelity of description, and the use of very 
graphic epithets. The following couplet is a specimen of the 
curious felicity of her botanical allusions. 

" From the mapped lichen to the plumed weed ; 
From threudy mosses to the veined flower." 



* This is a sad sacrifice of grammar to rhyme. Byron has made a similar one 
in his fourth Canto of Childe Harold . — 

" And dashest him again to earth ; there let him lay." 



MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH. 219 

The " Sonnet written at the close of Spring" offers further 
illustrations of this pecuhar character of her verse. 

" The garlands fade that Spring so lately wove, 
Each simple flower, which she had nurs'd in dew, 
Anemonies, that spangled every grove, 
The primrose wan, and harebell mildly blue. 
No more shall violets linger in the dell, 
Or purple orchis variegate the plain, 
Till Spring again shall call forth every bell, 
And dress with humid hands her wreaths again. 
Ah, poor humanity, so frail, so fair. 
Are the fond visions of thy early day. 
Till tyrant passion and corrosive care, 
Bid all thy fairy colours fade away ! 
Another May new buds and flowers shall bring ; 
Ah ! why has happiness — no second Spring.'"' 

Mrs. Smith's study of flowers led her much into the open fields, 
and she has shown herself to be a very minute and delicate ob- 
server of external nature. The following brief passage taken 
from one of her sonnets is picturesque. 

''And sometimes when the sun with parting rays 
Gilds the long grass that hides my silent bed, 
A tear shall tremble in my Charlotte's eyes." 

It reminds me of a beautiful touch of Coleridge's pencil in the 
annexed lines. 

" But the dell. 
Bathed by the mist, is fresh and delicate 
As vernal corn-field, or the unripe flax. 
When through its half-transparent stalks at even, 
The level sunshine glimmers with green light." 

There is an expression in the following line, which has been 
borrowed by a living poet. 

" The night-flood rakes upon the stony shore.'' 
2 F 2 



'220 MRS. CHAKLOTTE SMITH. 

Bowles, in describing a night-scene (in his Grave of the last 
Saxon), says : 

"All is silent, save the tide that rakes 

At times the beach." 

Or perhaps it was taken from Hurdis : — 

" Raking with harsh recoil the pebbly steep.'' 

The following from an address to the North Star has rather 
more vigour than Mrs. Smith usually displays : 

" Now niglitly wandering 'mid the tempests drear 
That howl the woods and rocky steeps among, 
I love to see tin/ sudden light appear 
Through the swift clouds — driven by the wind along ; 
Or in the turbid tcaier, rude and dark, 
O'er whose wild stream the gust of Winter raves, 
Thif trembling light tvith pleasure still I mark. 
Gleam in faint radiance on the foaming waves !'' 

The following verse is tender and melodious : — 

" Oh ! my lost love ! no tomb is placed for thee 
That may to stranger's eyes thy worth impart ; 
Thou hast no grave but in the stormy sea, 
And no memorial but this breaking heart !" 

I quote a part of the Sonnet to Fancy, for the sake of the neat 
turn of its concluding couplet : — 

" Through thy false medium then no longer viewed, 
May fancied pain and fancied pleasure fly ; 
And I, as from me all thy dreams depart, 
Be to my wayward destiny subdued ; 
Nor seek perfection tcith a poefs eye, 
Nor suffer anguish with a poet's heart.'' 

It may perhaps appear from these extracts, that though not to 
be placed in the first class of British Female Poets, Mrs. Smith 



EVENING CLOUDS. 221 

deserves more attention from the public than she is now likely to 
obtain. She is not to be compared to the Lady Minstrels of the 
present day, (to the powerful Joanna Baillie, the fanciful L. E. L., 
the tender and pathetic Caroline Bowles*, or the refined and 
spirited Hemans,) but her poems may, nevertheless, be occa- 
sionally referred to with, pleasure as the effusions of a chaste and 
cultivated mind. 



EVENING CLOUDS. 

[a fragment.] 

A GLORIOUS sight ! The sun is in the sea, 

But o'er its liquid cell yon cloud-arch gleams 

"With lambent fire — fit bridge for forms of air ! 

On either side, like green paths dropped with gold. 

Or cowslip-covered fields in dewy light. 

The glittering vapours lie. — But ah ! how vain 

To breathe this feeble language o'er a scene. 

So like a gorgeous vision ! Every tint 

And shadowy form that charms the poet's eye 

Now mocks his failing art ! 



• Now Mrs. Southey, 



[ 222 ] 



RETROSPECTIONS. 

[written in INDIA.] 
I. 

'Tis sweet on this far strand. 
When memory charms the fond reverted eye, 

To view that hallowed land 
Where early dreams like sun-touched shadows lie ! 

II. 

The dear familiar forms. 
That caught the fairest hues of happier hours. 

Flash forth through after storms. 
As bursts of light between autumnal showers. 

III. 

The green-wood's loveliest spot — 
The summer walk — the cheerful winter fire — 

The calm domestic cot — 
The village church with ivy-covered spire — 

IV. 

Each scene we loved so well — 
With faithful force the mind's true mirror shows ; 

As Painting's mighty spell 
Recals the past, and lengthened life bestows. 



But though so brightly beam. 
These distant views, they make the present drear ; 

By Youth's departed dream, 
Life's onward paths but desolate appear. 



RETROSPECTIONS. 223 



VI. 

We may not therefore dwell 
Too long and deeply on the dearer past. 

Nor sound, for aye, the knell 
Of pleasures gone and glories overcast. 



VII. 



Whate'er our lot may be, 
Whatever tints life's varied prospects wear, 

The temper'd breast is free 
From sullen apathy or fierce despair. 

VIII. 

In fortune's cloudiest hours. 
Within the dreariest regions of the earth. 

Are found both beams and flowers. 
Unless the wanderer's soul betrays a dearth. 

IX. 

For still, where'er we range. 
Are traced the sweet results of virtue's reiffn : 

Though forms and features change. 
Fair thoughts and fine humanities remain. 

X. 

And he, whose spirit glows 
At Nature's charms, shall own in every land 

Her glorious aspect shows 
The same bright marks of God's creating hand ! 



[ 224 ] 

SONNET— TO ENGLAND. 

Fair England ! thine untravell'd sons may bear 

A tranquil sense of thy surpassing worth, 

As those who ne'er have parted from their birth 

In faith serene their social comforts share ; 

But he, alone, doth feel how deeply dear 

The charms of home, who wildly wandering forth 

To distant realms, finds dreariness and dearth 

E'en where kind Nature's lavish blooms appear. 

Around his path bright scenes unheeded lie. 

For these are tinged not with his early dreams — 

His heart is far away ! Thy varied sky 

Dappling the silent hills with clouds and gleams — 

Thy nest-like cottages and silver streams — 

Are all that catch the wanderer's dreaming eye ! 



SONNET— FREEDOM*. 

There is exulting pride, and holy mirth. 

In Freedom's kindling eye ! Her radiant smile 

Profoundly thrills this fair imperial isle. 

The Queen of nations ! Glory of the earth ! 

Impassioned orisons are breathing forth. 

And lofty aspirations. Phantoms vile 

That chill the feeble spirit, and defile 

The springs of thought and feeling in their birth. 

Fade like the mists of morn, and lose the power 

That made us willing slaves. For reason's light 

Is bursting through the clouds that darkly lower. 

And hide the face of Heaven ! O'er the night 

Of slumbering millions — oh ! transcendent hour ! 

The sun of liberty is rising bright ! 

* Written in England. 



[ 225 ] 



CHRISTMAS. 



[written in INDIA ON CHRISTMAS DAY.] 

Here is Christmas Day again ! There is something as animat- 
ing in the mere announcement as in the sound of a merry bell. 
It is the season of cheerful piety, of the renewal of old customs 
that keep the heart alive and tender, and of pure and child-like 
enjoyment. In our native land it is a time when the dreariness 
of out-of-doors nature heightens and concentrates the social plea- 
sures and affections within the sheltered home. The hard ground 
and the frozen sheets of water remain unthawed by the pale and 
sickly sun ; but the heart of man melts within him, and the fountain 
of love is unlocked. The huge Christmas fire is the blazing sun 
that now warms and illumines each domestic circle. How beauti- 
fully its red light tinges every object in the snug apartment, and 
flashes on cheerful faces that glow as beneath the fervour of 
summer skies ! There is no winter within domestic walls. 

Now do the most busy and bustling of men of business pause 
for a few pleasant hours in their quick career, and casting off all 
feverish anxiety for the future, abandon themselves wholly to 
present pleasure, or dwell with a serene and grateful tenderness 
on the joys of the long-vanished past. The stern pride of philo- 
sophy and the zeal of the worshipper of Mammon are suspended 
for a day. The heart has an undivided reign over the kindlier 
and purer elements of our nature. Now friends long separated, 
and scattered over different corners of the kingdom, are re-called 
to one common centre, and surround the hearth that once echoed 
to the peals of their boyish laughter. The happy patriarch of the 
family gathers again around him the forms that he cherished from 
2 G 



226 CHRISTMAS, 

their cradles, whom the cares and duties of manhood have drawn 
from the paternal roof. The day is sacred to the affections. 
The Goddess of domestic love demands the entire man. The 
Christmas hearth is a shrine at which tender recollections, 
charity and forgiveness, and social feeling and a gentle joy are 
the only acceptable offerings. On this day especially does 

The inviolate island of the sage and free, 

notwithstanding its cold and cloudy clime, deserve the title of 
Merry England. The very streets of her dingy metropolis look 
bright with happy faces and gay garments. The churches are 
decorated with sparkling holly, and sprigs of evergreen are in 
every window. With ponderous cakes, a rich mass of sweets, 
whose sugary coats rival in their brilliancy the snow upon the 
hills, and with the gigantic roast beef of old England, almost 
every table in the land is groaning. Even the poor man's heart 
is gladdened. The toil-worn mechanic and the humble cottager 
have for this day at least clean clothes and a substantial meal, 
and a cheerful fire, and a merry meeting of their unsophisticated 
associates. With a smiling air, and a hurried yet careful tread, 
they rush from the busy bake-house with their earthen dish of 
beef and potatoes that scents the atmosphere as they pass along. 
What an appetite-provoking sight and savour ! The school-boy 
with his shining face will not " whine" to-day, nor creep, like 
snail, unwillingly to his task. This long-looked for day is to 
him, as to many others, the happiest of the year. His head has 
been as full of confectionary visions as his stomach will now be 
of the substantial reality. There is such a contagious merriment 
around, that the adult who does not feel like a boy again is not 
fit to be a man. Every generous spirit abandons itself to the 
influence and character of the season. 

And all is conscience and tender heart. 
It is sad to recollect that we in this far land are excluded from 



CHRISTMAS. 227 

SO many of these simple but true enjoyments. All we can now 
do is to enjoy the memory of them. 

A sound- headed man, however, cannot but be something of a 
cosmopolite and optimist. Wherever there are human hearts 
there are social feelings ; and even in solitude, where external 
nature is not excluded by prison doors, there is always beauty : 
and God is every where. He leaves no corner of the world, no 
class of his creatures, forlorn and fatherless. Why then should 
we be guilty of an impious discontent, and recall the past only 
to feed our cares ? 

A distance of fifteen thousand miles, a tropical sun, and the 
presence of foreign faces need not make us forgetful of home- 
delights. That strange magician, Fancy, who supplies so many 
corporeal deficiencies and mocks at time and space, enables us to 
pass, in the twinkling of an eye, over the dreary waste of waters 
that divides us from the scenes and associates of our youth. We 
tread again our native shore. We sit by the hospitable hearth, 
and listen to the laugh of children. We exchange cordial greet- 
ings and friendly gifts. There is a resurrection of the dead, and 
a return of vanished years. We abandon ourselves to this sweet 
illusion, and again 

Live o'er each scene, and be what we behold. 

The warm-hearted and the imaginative cheat Time of half his 
triumph. The happiness of a dream is real, however false its 
images. To be pleasurably deceived is no great hardship. Hap- 
piness is our object, and the wise care little for the means. It is 
enough to know that the end is good and true, however it may 
have been obtained ; for he who is in the enjoyment of genuine 
happiness cannot have forfeited any right of conscience to that 
precious dower : — evil intentions are not thus rewarded. 

If, therefore, we turn our imagination into a right path, we 
can hardly give it too free a rein. Let any man take a retro- 
2 G 2 



228 CHRISTMAS. 

spect of his life, and sum up his moments of real pleasure, and he 
will soon discover how much he owes to this glorious faculty. It 
is to the freshness and fervour of imagination in the dawn of life 
that we are to attribute the radiance of early joy. All things 
sparkle in its light, like the dew-bespangled fields of morning. 

Let such amongst us as are willing to be children again, if it 
be only for an hour, resign ourselves to the sweet enchantment 
that steals upon the spirit when it indulges in the memory of 
early and innocent enjoyment. Let us seek again each well- 
remembered haunt of happier years. Ah ! then how many faces 
long since faded shall bloom again ! The white shroud of 
winter may conceal the countenance of earth, but the shroud of 
mortality shall be parted. The spring of human nature shall 
return. The cerulean heaven of many a laughing eye shall shine 
as brightly and tenderly as ever, — the voice of human merriment, 
more sweet than the song of birds, shall again respond to the 
music of the mind. 

Even when this dream departs, we are not utterly forlorn. We 
return to this foreign shore — ^this distant exile — in sadness, but 
not despair. We have all of us either children or friends in our 
native land. Perhaps we may once again embrace them — to 
part no more ! But should fate deny the consummation of this 
dearly cherished hope — should we never again revisit " in the 
flesh" that happy circle — we may at least sympathize in their 
enjoyments. Parents especially have reason to hail this festive 
season with peculiar interest. The fireside holidays, not less 
delightful than the sunny noons of summer, are enjoyed by their 
dear little offspring with the same zest and intensity as thrilled 
their own hearts of yore. Their small, ruddy faces are illumined 
by the flickering light of the burning logs so liberally heaped 
upon the grate. The firewood crackles cheerily, and the ches- 
nuts are sweUing and bursting on the hob with a startling sound. 
The glories of the hospitable board, are demolished with a spirit 



CHniSTMAS. 229 

and celerity that maturer mouths would in vain essay to rival. 
The good things that go untasted from our tables in this City of 
Palaces, are treated with more respect by our little representa- 
tives in Britain. Even the substantial Christmas turkey disap- 
pears like a dream before the attacks of these gallant though 
lilliputian gastronomists. As the peasants in Goldsmith's Desert- 
ed ^^illage wondered how the school-master's one small head 
could contain such a load of learning, we are puzzled to conceive 
how each little stomach can make room for such large stores of 
Christmas luxuries. Dear boys — sweet girls — ye seem more pro- 
vident than your age would warrant ! Is it because Christmas 
comes but once a year that ye lay in so lavish a supply ? 

But there is a limit even to the appetite of healthy children, 
and the rich, delightful meal, interrupted only by irrepressible 
bursts of laughter at jests more rife with merriment than wit, like 
all earthly enjoyments must have an end. It is succeeded, how- 
ever, by a variety of delightful gambols. The bunch of misletoe 
is suspended from the ceiling, and occasions 

Quips and cranks and wanton wiles, 
Nods and becks and wreathed smiles. 

Tlie little gay Lotharios and the flirts and coquettes in minia- 
ture, now present a scene that awakens a thousand exquisite 
recollections in the minds of the elder spectators. The boys 
betray a consciousness that they are doing a manly thing. The 
little misses think it necessary to appear coy and reluctant, yet 
seize sly occasions to look as killingly as they can, at their favo- 
rites of the bolder sex, and seem to recollect, as often as it suits 
their inclination, that under the green misletoe kissing is lawful, 
and " killing, no murder." 

Then follow Blind-man's-buff, Hunt-the-slipper, and a round of 
accustomed games. After or before all these, according to the 
taste of the donors, come the Christmas presents, which are receiv- 
ed by the happy little creatures with such grateful transports, and 



230 CHRISTMAS. 

exhibited with such innocent pride to their school-fellows when 
" black Monday" returns. The triumphant display of these trea- 
sures, and a fresh store of pocket-money, are among the parting 
consolations when they quit the sweet indulgences of home for 
the rigid laws of school. 

It is true that in this strange land the celebration of Christmas 
can be attended with but few of those social observ^ances, and 
those pleasant festivities around the blazing fire, which contrast 
so delightfully with the dreary aspect of external nature during 
an English winter ; but though the season has lost something of 
its mirth, we can still keep it sacred to the memory of the past. 

If we cannot collect around our festal board the forms fami- 
liar to our childhood, we can think and talk of them with tender- 
ness and rapture. Those of us who have children in our native 
land may cheer ourselves with the thought, that on this long and 
impatiently expected holiday their little hearts wiU bound with 
merriment, and that they will be called upon, in the midst of 
their innocent pleasures, to remember their distant parents, to 
wish them many happy seasons, and perhaps, also, a safe return 
to their native country. But, alas ! I allude to the latter wish with 
a faint and trembling heart, when I recollect how many of our 
expatriated countrymen have been disappointed in this the sweet- 
est prospect of an Indian exile's hfe. They cherished, perhaps, 
as firm and fond a hope as any that yet glows in a living breast, 
to pass the cheerful evening of existence in some pleasure-haunt- 
ed spot in dear old England, — and now they are lying in their 
last long sleep on this foreign shore ! 



[ 231 3 

SONNET— YOUTH. 

Oh ! there are green spots on the path of time 
The morning traveller, passing gaily by, 
Views with irreverent and careless eye, — 
Till, with reverted gaze, when doomed to chmb 
With ceaseless toil adversity's rough steep. 
He marks them in the shadowy distance lie 
Like radiant clouds, that o'er an April sky, 
'Mid gloom and strife, in silent beauty sleep. 
Scenes of departed joy, — now moi\rned in vain ! 
To which my weary feet can ne'er return. 
Farewell ! — farewell ! — Alas ! how soon we learn. 
Urged o'er Life's later paths of care and pain. 
Where hang the shadows of the tempest stern, 
That all is drear beyond Youth's floweiy plain. 



SONNET. 

Our paths are desolate, and far apart — 

Our early dreams have vanished ; — never more 

May we together mingle as before. 

Our fond, impassioned spiz-its. Quick tears start 

As eager memories rush upon my heart. 

And rend oblivion's veil. E'en now the store 

Of star-like spells that softly glimmered o'er 

The twilight maze of youth, a moment dart 

Their clouded beams on Care's reverted eye. 

Alas ! the promise of the past hath been 

A brief though dear delusion : — all things fly 

My onward way, and mock the lengthening scene, — 

Through Life's dim mist thy form oft seemeth nigh. 

Though lone and distant as the Night's fair Queen. 



[ 232 ] 

SONNETS— TO DEATH. 
I. 

Lord of the silent tomb ! relentless Death ! 

Fierce victor and destroyer of the world ! 

How stern thy power ! The shafts of fate are hurled 

By thine unerring arm ; and swift as breath 

Fades from the burnished mirror, — as the wreath 

Of flaky smoke from cottage hearths upcurled 

Melts in cerulean air, — as sear leaves whirled 

Along autumnal floods, — as o'er the heath 

The quick birds rise and vanish, — so depart. 

Nor leave a trace of their delusive light. 

The meteor-dreams of man ! Awhile the heart. 

Of eager Folly swells — his bubbles bright 

Float on the stream of time — but ah ! thy dart 

Soon breaks each glittering spell — and all is night ! 

II. 
Insatiate Fiend ! at thy blood-dropping shrine. 
In vain unnumbered victims wait thy will. 
The life-streams of the earth thy thirst of ill 
Shall never quench, 'till that bright morning shine 
That bursts the sleep of ages. All repine 
At thy dread mandates, and thy terrors thrill 
The hero and the sage, though pride may still 
The voice that would reveal them. Hopes divine. 
Of faith and virtue born, alone may cheer 
Mortality's inevitable hour. 
Nor phrensied prayer, nor agonizing tear. 
May check thine arm, or mitigate thy power. 
Ruin's resistless sceptre is thy dower. 
Thy throne, a world — thy couch, Creation's bier ! 



[ 238 ] 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS*. 



Dr. Johnson was accustomed to maintain that Pope brought 
English verse to its utmost possible perfection. He regarded the 
"writers of the Elizabethan period as little better than inspired 
barbarians. In this respect, he was almost as great a heathen as 
Voltaire himself,, whose opinion of Shakspearef is a much more 
powerful argument against the character of the critic's own mind, 
than against the genius of our unrivalled dramatist. The French 
taste for the smart and artificial in style, introduced into England 
at the Restoration, lasted much longer than any critic of that day 
who had a sense of truth and nature, would have at all anticipated. 
But though truth and nature must at last prevail, it is wonder- 
ful for how long a period the influence of fashion may keep them 
in a state of complete subjection. For a season, and under pecu- 
liar circumstances, custom is a second nature, more powerful than 
the first. 

When we look back at the different stages in the progress 
of English hterature, we are struck with the extraordinary simi- 
larity of character displayed by contemporary writers. At a 
superficial view it would almost seem as if genius itself were pro- 
duced by accidents and conventionalisms. Why should the poets 



* Thealma and Clearchl's: — A Pastoral History, in smooth and easy verse. 
Writteii long since by John Chalkliill, Esq., an acquaintant and friend of 
Edmund Spenser. London : Printed for Benj. Tooke, at the Ship in St, 
Paul's Church-yard, 1G83. 

t Johnson forced himself to speak well of Shakspeare in his preface to the 
Plays, but he had perhaps no real relish for the great Prince of Dramatists. 
He seems in his heart to have liked Addison's Cato better than any of Shak- 
speare's dramas. His own Irene sliows his leaning to the artificial and declama- 
tory style. He speaks of the " barbarity of the age," in which so many men of 
might, besides Shakspeare himself, shed a glory upon our literature that has 
not been equalled in later times. 

2 H 



234 THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

of the time of Elizabeth and James be a race of giants, and those 
of Anne comparatively a race of pigmies ? In both eras, the poets 
were equally human beings, and of Enghsh origin. In the first 
mentioned period, there was an extraordinary abundance of all the 
higher faculties of the mind ; in the second, there was an equally 
extraordinary dearth. The richness and facility of invention, the 
prodigality of fancy, the profound knowledge of human nature, 
which the old dramatists displayed, seem to be utterly beyond 
the reach of the intellects of later times. The former had such 
an entire sympathy with the world at large, that they could afford 
to forget their own identity, when pourtraying the minds and 
passions of other men. Hence the truth and variety of their 
delineations. But we have since had no writer gifted with that 
degree of the dramatic faculty which seemed so common an 
endowment in the time of Shakspeare. Cowper has spoken of 
a period when 

The sacred name 
Of Poet and of Prophet was the same ; 

And there was this two-fold character displayed by our good 
old poet and prophet, Daniel, when, in his dedication to the 
tragedy of Philotas, he thus expressed his opinion of the reign 
of EUzabeth : — 

And it may be, the genius of that time 
Would leave to her the glory in tliat kind, 
And that the utmost powers of English rhyme 
Should be within her peaceful reign confined ; 
For since that time, our songs could never thrive, 
But lain as if forlorn ; though in tiie prime 
Of this new raising season, we did strive 
To bring the best we could unto the lime. 

The serious drama in the reign of Anne is, generally speak- 
ing, beneath contempt. Even as a work of mere art, without 
reference to its utter dearth of inspiration, it has very little claim 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHtJS. 235 

to the respect of criticism. In the present day, through the 
study of our elder dramatists, to which the nation has been 
urged by a small class of original-minded critics, some struggles 
have been made by several popular w^riters to return to the long- 
deserted paths of truth and nature. But it is melancholy to 
remark with what small success. Our poets are almost all mere 
egotists. They attempt to lift the curtain of the general human 
heart, and, instead of discovering, as through a transparent 
glass, the internal movements of other men, they but behold, as 
in a mirror, their own self-complacent images. Thus, liord 
BjTon reproduced himself perpetually, not only in his miscellane- 
ous poems, but in all his dramas. He fancied he was looking into 
a thousand hearts, while he was only looking into one. He dipped 
his pencil in his own inflamed and feverish blood, and thought 
every other man's was of the same colour. 

No work since the time of Elizabeth may be looked upon as an 
original draught from nature by the hand of genius, in which 
the curtain of the human heart is lifted, and the secrets of 
our inner being are disclosed as by the power of a God. This 
degree of excellence was reserved exclusively for Shakspeare and 
his nobly- gifted contemporaries. There v^-ere no such miracles 
before his time, and there have been none since. It is strange 
that Nature, who is so sparing of the dramatic faculty, should 
have reserved all England's share of it, for one particular 
age. Since that period, we have had highly beautiful poems 
and romances in the dramatic form, but no genuine drama. In 
modern tragedy we have not a single new creation. The 
characters have all a hundred prototypes. They are mere outlines, 
and are the hereditary property of the stage. The interest depends 
not upon the minute and full development of character, but upon 
the nature of the incidents. They are like the poems of Scott, 
that borrow almost all their charm from the story. It is not that 
the characters in modern plays are absolutely unnatural, but that 
2 H 2 



236 THKALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

they are too vague and general. The consequence is that we 
look more to the development of the plot than to the exhibition 
of the secret springs of action and of mental or moral idiosyn- 
crasies. Take away from the dramatic writer of the present day 
his incidents and plots, and you leave him poor indeed ; but 
we do not think so much of what happens to the persons of 
Shakspeare's drama, as of the nature of their hearts or intellects. 
Their character and not their fate is most present to our minds. 
Hamlet is an intensely interesting personage, without any refer- 
ence whatever to his position ; and equally so i& Macbeth, though a 
being of a directly opposite nature. When we are presented with 
such full length pictures of humanity as these, so distinct and 
animated, we receive an impression that can never fade but with life 
itself. Did any man, woman, or child, that has been introduced 
to Hamlet or Macbeth or Othello or Lear, ever happen to forget 
them ? But he who wishes to keep up his acquaintance with the 
personages of the modern drama, must have a strong memory 
indeed, if he does not find it necessary to refresh it with occasional 
re-perusals. 

They all wear out of us, like forms, with chalk 
Painted on rich men's floors, for one feast-night. 

We never look in the drama of the day for profound or original 
delineations of human nature, though it is not to be denied that we 
often find in it a great deal of elegant poetr}', much refined thought 
and noble feeling, and many striking and pathetic incidents. 

It would take up too much space and time on the present 
occasion, and lead us too far from the main object of this article, 
to attempt the arduous task of a philosophical explanation of the 
causes which have operated on the intellectual character of the 
literature of different periods. Of course, human nature must 
be always the same, but the development of its energies depends 
upon an infinite variety of accidents. 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 237 

All that I now wish to insist upon, is a fact suggested by the 

curious old volume, the title of which is on the first page of the 

present paper. It has been asserted by the critics of the artificial 

school, that we had neither accuracy nor harmony of verse before 

the time of Waller ; and that Pope brought our versification to a 

state of excellence, which it would be impossible to surpass. Now, 

if we even put aside all reference to the elder dramatists, and 

confine ourselves to the miscellaneous poets, it might easily be 

shown (unless one unvaried tone be harmony) that Waller and 

Pope were greatly inferior, as mere versifiers, to the author of 

the Fairy Queen, and perhaps even his obscure " acquaintant and 

friend," John Chalkhill. We might, if necessary, go so far back 

as old Chaucer, whose verse, when rightly read, has a fluency, a 

sweetness, and a variety of modulation, that put to shame the 

sing-song of the French school — 

" That creaking lyre, 
That whetstone of the teeth, monotony in wire." 

Mr. Tyrwhitt has shown that Chaucer's versification, whenever 
his genuine text is preserved, was uniformly correct, although the 
harmony of his lines has, in many instances, been lost by the 
changes that have taken place in the mode of accenting our 
language. Chaucer was the inventor of the ten syllable or heroic 
verse to which Pope was so partial, and of which its original 
inventor left specimens, that Dryden despaired of improving. 

That a very favourable change has come over the spirit of our 
poetical literature since the time of Anne, must be sufficiently 
obvious to the most casual observer ; and that this change is to be 
attributed partly to the weariness and disgust occasioned by the vast 
flocks of rhyming parrots, who have given us perpetual repetitions 
of the easily echoed verse of Pope, and partly to the attention 
that has been recalled to our elder writers, will hardly be disputed : 
but it is perhaps not so generally understood that many even of 
our miscellaneous poets, who pretend to originality of style, have 



238 THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

only given up one object of imitation for another. The free 
heroic couplet, with its variety of pause, of such writers as Leigh 
Hunt, Keats, Shelley, and BaiTy Cornwall, which manv people 
seem to look upon as a novelty, is several hundred years old. In 
reading the poem of Thealma and Clearchus, if it were printed with 
new type, on fine hot pressed paper, with the spelling modernized, 
we might easily fancy ourselves turning over the pages of the 
author of Rimini. Tt is not only the metre, but the entire spirit 
and manner of the old writers to which our modern poets have 
returned. Readers do not now look for only wit and good sense 
in a composition that aims at the dignity of poetry — these qualities 
do well enough for a prose essay; but in a poem, the fire of 
imagination is regarded as an essential ingredient. The genuine 
lovers of our poetical literature can never be sufficiently grateful 
to the two Wartons, who (the one by his excellent Essay on the 
Genius and Writings of Pope, and the other by his History of 
English Poetry), expedited that revolution in taste, which has 
made all men acknowledge the superiority in point of poetical 
merit of descriptions of nature, human and external, to smart 
satires and witty allusions to fashionable life. Their own poems 
did something towards bringing nature once more into vogue ; 
but it was Thomson, Burns, and Cowper, who were the most 
influential leaders in this happy introduction of a nobler poetical 
system. If Dryden had possessed a larger share of fancy and 
feeling, his great superiority over Pope, in the range and energy 
of his mind, might have effectually prevented the latter from 
exercising so pernicious an influence on the public taste. But 
Dryden soon ceased to be a very popular poet, and the world 
becoming too nice to relish his rough strength, were satisfied with 
no verses that had not something of the polish and tone of his 
successor. Critics do not quarrel with Pope, because he is too 
harmonious and accurate, but because his harmony is too mono- 
tonous, and his accuracy, on which so much stress is laid by his 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHITS. 239 

admirers, is confined to matters of comparatively slight import- 
ance. It is true that he is more uniformly smooth than Shak- 
speare himself, but his music is less varied and delightful ; he is 
more uniformly correct in diction and metre, but his descriptions 
of external nature and the heart of man, besides being more slight 
and limited, are incomparably less accurate than those of our 
Prince of Dramatists. Even his accuracy of i"hynie and grammar 
is grossly overrated : his works abound in flagrant violations of 
both. Lest, however, the reader should think that I mean to 
allow him no kind of merit, I may as well explain what I really 
think of him. I agree with those who place him at the head of 
the second order of poets ; those in the first order being Chaucer, 
Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton. No writer ever condensed so 
much good sense into so narrow a compass. Condensation and 
perspicuity are amongst his most conspicuous merits. He was 
not, however, without fancy and feeling. Far from it. He had 
greatly more of both than his predecessor Dryden. There is a 
brilliant display of the first quality in his Rape of the Lock, and a 
pleasing specimen of the latter in his Abelard and Eloisa. But 
mere fancy will not make a poet of the very first order. Imagina- 
tion, with which Pope was but sparingly endowed, is what is 
most required in the loftier efforts of the Muse. His pathos is 
not of a very powerful nature. It gently wins our sympathy, 
but I doubt if it ever wrung a tear from readers the most 
accustomed to the melting mood. It is said that the original 
letters of Abelard and Eloisa are far more pathetic than the poem. 
I believe all modern critics of any eminence have agreed to place 
Pope, as I have done, the first in the second rank, which, if 
rightly considered, is a highly honorable position. He who 
doubts this, should cast his eye over our list of poets, and observe 
how many great names are below him, and how few above. 

Of the personal history of John Chalkhill, the author of 
Tfiealma aud Clearchus, our knowledge is slight indeed. It is 



240 THBALMA AND CLEARCHU8. 

in vain to turn over the pages even of poetical antiquaries to 
discover any information concerning a writer who has little 
deserved to fall into such oblivion. In the tenth volume of 
the Censura Literaria, a work in which so many long forgotten 
writers have been revived, there are just five lines devoted to our 
author. This little paragraph contains nothing that was not 
perfectly well known before. In old Izaac Walton's Complete 
Angler, two of Chalkhill's songs are introduced : Doctor John- 
son translated a part of one of these into Latin. The translation 
is preserved in Murphy's edition of Johnson's works. Neither 
EUis, Warton, nor Headley make any allusion to Chalkhill. 
Ritson mentions him, but adds nothing, to our scanty knowledge, 
of the poet or his works. I am not certain whether any of the 
biographies of Spenser contain an allusion to his " acquaintant 
and friend." I suspect not. It is to be regretted that Spenser 
has devoted no generous line to the fame of his brother poet : a 
great and popular writer may preserve the literary life of hia 
associates by a single potent word, and bid 

Their little barks attendant sail, 
Pursue his triumph, and partake the gale. 

Mrs. Cooper, in the Muses' Library, published in 1741, Dr. 
Drake, in his Shakespeare and his Times, and Mr. Campbell, in 
his Specimens of the British Poets, are the only authors who have 
made any quotations from Chalkhill. Mr. Campbell does not 
give a specimen in the body of his selections ; but in the first 
volume (printed last), containing his Essay on English Poetry, 
he apologizes for the omission as an accidental oversight. I am 
almost uncharitable enough to suspect, that it was not an over- 
sight, but an ignorance on the part of the compiler, subsequently 
enhghtened, that was the real cause of our fine old pastoral 
writer having failed to obtain an admission into that long rank 
of poets, in which so many meaner men have an honorable and 



THEALMA AND CLEAUCHUS. 241 

conspicuous place. Neither Anderson nor Chalmers make any 
mention of him*. It is to honest Izaac Walton that the world is 
indebted for the preservation of the Poem of Thealma and Clear- 
chus. Our poet formed a kind of personal link between the old 
angler and the author of The Faery Queen. Chalkhill shook 
hands with Spenser, and Walton with Chalkhill. It was in his 
ninetieth year (the last of his life), that Walton jJubHshed the 
poem of his friend, to which he affixed an affectionate preface. 
The pastoral character of this work must have been highly 
congenial to the taste of one who wrote so fine a prose-poem of 
a rural nature, as the Complete Angler. Chalkhill's poem was 
published only three or four years after the author's death, but 
had been written long before. The only im'ormation that Walton 
gives us of his friend, is in the following paragraph, with which 
he concludes his preface : — 

" I have this truth to say of the author, that iie was in his time a man, 
generally known, and well beloved ; for he was humble and obliging in 
liis behaviour, a gentleman, a scholar, very innocent and prudent : and 
indeed his whole life was useful, quiet, and virtuous. God send the story 
may meet with, or make, all readers like him.'' 

Chalkhill's two songs, given in the Complete Angler, are in praise 
of fishing ; and it is probable that he shared with his old friend 
Walton, in the love and practice of an amusement that none but 
a patient and tranquil-minded man can thoroughly enjoy. Leigh 
Hunt, in his Indicator, is rather severe upon this sport ; and 
though he does not exactly agree with the old joke, attributed 
sometimes to Swift and sometimes to Doctor Johnson, that it is 
" a stick and a string, with a fly at one end and a fool at the 
other," he insists upon it that it is a very cruel and censurable 
pleasure. He erroneously ascribes one of Chalkhill's songs to 



* Since this article was written I have read a notice of Chalkhill in the 
Retrospective Review, 

2 I 



242 THBALMA AND CLEARCHU9. 

"Walton, and ridicules and reproves the patriarch of anglers for 

the sentiment in one of the stanzas which concludes as follows : 

" Other joys 
Are but toys, 
And to be lamented." 

Leigh Hunt ought to have allowed for some little extravagance 
in a laudatory lyric upon the writer's favorite amusement. The 
name of John Chalkhill is affixed to the song, and yet a critic 
like Leigh Hunt gives the authorship to another : — this is fame. 
I had nearly forgotten to mention, that Mr. Singer is said to have 
given the public a reprint of Theabna and Clearchus, but I have never 
met with it, and perhaps the poem is, at this day, almost as good 
as manuscript. Walton's old edition of the book fell into my hands 
but a few days ago, and it is the first copy I ever saw. As it is 
not very likely that many of my readers have been equally fortu- 
nate, I trust they will not be displeased to have some account of 
it, and a few characteristic extracts. It may be regarded as a 
remarkable indication of the obscurity of the author, that Mr. 
Singer in his reprint of the work, is said to have thrown out a con- 
jecture, that, as Walton had been silent upon the life of his friend 
Chalkhill, he might be altogether a fictitious personage, and be 
only a pseudonyme for Walton himself*. Rennie, in his new 
edition of the Complete Angler, laughs at this conjecture ; and, to 
convince us that it is quite unreasonable, informs us, that the 
tomb-stone of John Chalkhill is still to be seen in Winchester 
Cathedral, where Walton himself was buried. But the epitaph is 
given by Warton in his History of Winchester, and from this it 
appears, by a comparison of dates, that the John Chalkhill, who 
lies in his last sleep, in Winchester Cathedral, could not have 
been the " friend and acquaintant" of Spenser. The tomb-stone 
tells us, that it covers the remains of one who died in the year 
1679, aged eighty years. He was therefore born in 1599, 

* The Critic in the Retrospective Review is of the same opinion. 



THKALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 243 

the year after Spenser's death. This somewhat perplexes us in 
our speculations regarding the history of our author ; but it is 
difficult to believe that honest Izaac Walton would have put forth 
a poem under a feigned name, and have attempted to deceive 
mankind in his venerable old age, when he was probably prepar- 
ing himself for another world. There was too much simplicity 
and truth in his character, to have enabled him to reconcile 
his conscience to an act of this nature. The fervid commenda- 
tion, moral and critical, which he has lavished on the author, 
he never could have bestowed upon himself. But the office 
of paying a tribute to the memory, and preserving the literary 
remains of a friend, was an occupation in exact keeping with 
his character. It was a sacred duty, and the manner in which 
he has performed it, adds considerably to our respect for the name 
of Walton. It is certainly, however, to be regretted that, while 
paying an ardent tribute to the character of the author, he w^as 
not a little more explicit in the details of his personal history. 

The poem of Theahna and Clemxhus, though left unfinished by 
the author, extends to considerably more than three thousand 
fines. Of the story, which is very intricate, I shall not take the 
trouble to offer a complete analysis. It will be necessary, how- 
ever, to explain as much of it as will render the extracts intelligi- 
ble. The scene is laid in Arcadia. The actors are princes and 
princesses, and other personages of distinction, who have been 
induced, by various circumstances, to conceal their real characters, 
and beguile their sorrows in a pastoral fife. The design is suffici- 
ently fantastic, but the execution is often exquisitely natural. The 
poem opens with Theahna, at once a princess and a shepherdess, 
leading forth her " tender ewes," early in the morning, just as the 
sun begins to gild the tops of the mountains. Her soul is 
darkened with melancholy thoughts, on account of the absent 
Clearchus, whom she supposes to be dead. The cheerfulness of 
morning sheds no fight upon her despondent spirit. But let the 
2 I 2 



244 THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

poet himself describe her state in his own harmonious num- 
bers : — 

The airy choir salute the welcome day, 

And with new carols sing their cares away ; 

Yet move not her : she minds not what she hears : 

Their sweeter accents grate her tender ears, 

That relish nought but sadness : joy and she 

Were not so well acquainted : one might see 

E'en in her very looks a stock of sorrow 

So much improved, 'twould prove despair to-morrow. 

Here follows a description of a river, on the banks of which she 
seated herself, to indulge, at leisure, her tender sadness : — 

Down in a valley 'twixt two rising hills, 
From whence the dew in silver drops distils 
To enrich the lowly plain, a river ran, 
night Cygnus, (as some think from Lada's Swan 
That there frequented ;) gently on it glides, 
And makes indentures in her crooked sides, 
And with her silent murmurs, rocks asleep 
Her watery inmates : 'twas not very deep. 
But clear as that Narcissus looked in, when 
His self-love made him cease to live with men. 

In the following passage, the allusion to Collin is evidently a 
compliment to Spenser : 

Close by the river, was a thick -leav'd grove, 
Where swains of old sang stories of their love; 
But unfrequented now since Collin died, 
Collin that king of sheplierds, and the pride 
Of all Arcadia. 

At noon, her servant, Caretta, brings a pastoral refection of 
curds, creams, and cheesecake. The faithful and affectionate 
domestic tries very hard to persuade her mistress to partake of 
these dainties. For a long^ time, her arguments and entreaties 
are without effect. At last, the poor girl hits upon the right 
string, by pressing the attention of her mistress to the fact 
that the fate of Clear elms was not clearlv ascertained, and that it 



THEALMA AXD CLEARCHUS, 245 

was quite possible that fate had sent some lucky hand to save 
him in an extremity of danger ; for Thealma herself had been 
snatched from a watery grave in which many of her friends 
supposed her still immured. There is a touch of genuine nature 
in the manner in which this consolatory suggestion breaks 
through Thealma' s troubled thoughts, like a sudden hght between 
shifting clouds. 

T/tealiiia, all this while with serious eye, 

Ey'd tlie poor wench, unwilling to reply ; 

For in her looks she read some true presage, 

That gave her comfort, and somewhat assuage 

The fury of her passions ; with desire 

Her ears suck'd in her speech, to quench her fire : 

She could have heard her speak an age, sweet soul. 

So pretty loud she chid her, and condole 

With her in her misfortunes. O, said she, 

What wisdom dwells in plain simplicity ! 

Prithee (my dear Caretta) why dost cry? 

I am not angry ; good girl, dry thine eye, 

Or I shall turn child too. 

She then consents to partake of her servant's pastoral delica- 
cies, if she will only promise to be merry. This change in her 
mistress, for a moment, overwhelms Caretta with conflictinff 

o 

emotions of grief and joy. 

Still Cuirltii wept, 
Sorrow and gladness such a struggling kept 
Within her for the mastery : at the length 
Joy overcame, and speech recovered strength. 

While the mistress and her maid are thus occupied in an inter- 
change of kind expressions, they are startled by the sudden 
appearance of a boar pursued by a huntsman ; and as the chace 
is described with great force and freshness, I shall lay the entire 
passage before the reader. The passages in italics are highly 
graphic. 



246 THEALMA AND CLBAtlCHUS. 

A fell boar 
R'.ish'd from the wood, enrag'd by a deep wound 
Some huntsman gave him : up he plorjg/is t lie ground. 
And whetting of his tusks, about 'gon roam, 
Champing his venom's moisture into foam. 
Theulma and her maid, half dead with fear, 
Cry'd out for help : their cry soon reacht his ear, 
And he came snuffling tow'rd them : still they cry, 
And fear save wings unto them as they fly. 
The sheep ran bleating o'er tlie pleasant plain, 
And airy Echo answers them again ; 
Redoubling of their cries to fetch in aid, 
Whilst to the wood the fearful virgins made, 
W here a new fear assay 'd them : 'twas their hap 
To meet the boar's pursuer in the gap 
With his sword drawn, and all besmear'd with gore. 
Which made their case more desp'rate than before. 
As they iraagin'd ; yet so well as fear 
And doubt would let them, as the man drew near 
They implor'd his help : he minds them not, but spyino 
The chased boar in a thick puddle lying, 
Tow'rds him he makes ; tlie boar was soon aware, 
And with an hideous noise sucks in the air. 
Upon his guard he stands, his tusks new whets, 
And up on end his grisli/ bristles sets. 
His wary foe went traversing his ground. 
Spying out where was best to give a wound. 
And now Thealma's fears afresh began 
To seize on her; her care's now for the man. 
Lest the adventurous youth should get some hurt, 
Or die untimely : up th' boar flings the dirt, 
Dyd crimson with his blood; his foe at length 
Watching his time, and doubling of his strength, 
Gave him a wound so deep, it let out life, 
And set a bloody period to their strife. 



The huntsman turns out to be Theahna' shr other. Prince Anaxus, 
who had supposed his sister dead. They recognize each other 
"with delight, and go together to Thealma's cottage. The shadows 
of night now fell upon the fields, and all Arcadia was at rest, ex- 
cept the fisherman Rhotus, who was yet at sea. By the light of the 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 247 

moon he espied a frigate that he discovered to have come from 
Lemnos. The master of the ship hailed the fisherman, and, after 
dropping an anchor, invited him on board. He at once obeyed 
the call, and found all the passengers with such an air of sadness 
in their countenances as indicated that some misfortune had 
befallen them. The most conspicuous of them, a grave old lord 
who went by the name of Clean, questioned the honest fisher as 
to the news of Arcadia. Rhotus, on this, gives a description of this 
paradise of the poets, as it was in the age of gold, to which 
unhappily the age of iron had succeeded. 

This description, which is too long to quote, reminds me of some 
passages in Sidney's pastoral romance. Who would not wish to 
live in such an age and country, as Sidney and Chalkhill have 
described, and have inscribed upon his monument (as on the tomb 
in the picture of Poussin), " I also was an Arcadian !" 

" Would I luid fallen upon tiiose happy days, 
Tlial poets celebrate ; those golden times, 
And those Arcadian scenes, that Maro sings, 
And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose." 

Cowper. 

We cannot but marvel at the cold severity of Godwin's judgment 
when he confessed that, in perusing Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, 
the thought occurred to hitn that our ancestors who admired 
it, must have had a blood that crept but feebly in their veins, and 
that they were yet only half awaked from the stupidity of the 
savage state. They had indeed no taste for the convulsive con- 
tortions and melodramatic horrors that we look for in the 
modern Muse ; but such fresh and faithful and Claude-like repre- 
sentations of external nature and rural objects as abound in 
Sidney's prose and in Spenser's verse, and impart a feeling of the 
open air, were congenial to their healthier imaginations. Lord 
Orford, too, in his " Royal and Noble Authors," has told us that 



248 THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

the Arcadia is " tedious, lamentable, and pedantic*." It is said, 
however, that it gave delight to Shakspeare, and even in a 
later day to Milton ; and their admiration is a tolerable set-ofF 
against the sneers of modern critics. It might have been sup- 
posed, as I think Hazlitt has observed, that the single pastoral 
image of the shepherd boy piping as though he should never be old, 
would have saved it from the contempt of every reader who has 
himself any share of imagination. It is true that the style is 
occasionally quaint and prolix, and the sentiments affected and 
fantastic ; but the strange or unsightly foliage of some few trees 
of this Arcadian Orchard do not render less delightful the ripe 
and precious fruits that abound beneath it and the general beauty 
of the scene. 

But let us return to the poem. Both Rhotus and Cleon 
are subsequently discovered to be noblemen of high character, 
who had been persecuted by the government ; — the latter had 
been banished. It is not at all necessary to enter into the 
minute details of their adventures. To confess the truth, the 
whole story of the poem is a little tedious, and there are so many 
plots within plots, and the main thread is so intricately inter- 
woven with the general texture, that nothing but the exquisite 
truth and simplicity of the descriptions, and the sweetness and 
variety of the verse, could make so long and involved a narrative 
at all supportable. On this account I shall not weary the reader 
or myself, with following up the progress of the story, but 
select such detached passages as will show the author's genius to 



* Sir William Temple, in liis Essay on Poetry, has paid a glowing tribute to 
the merits of the Arcadia. " The true spirit or vein of ancient poetry," says he, 
" in this kind," (prose romance, a kind of poetry in prose) "seems most to shine 
in Sir Philip Sidney, whom I esteem both the greatest poet, and the noblest 
genius of any that have left writings behind them, and published in ours or any 
other modern language ; a person born capable, not only of forming the great- 
est ideas, but of leaving the noblest examples, if the length of his life had been 
equal to the excellence of his wit and virtues." 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 249 

the best advantage. The following description of the Temple of 
Diana, is a picture as highly finished as any thing in modern art. 

Within a little silent srrove hard by 

Upon a sniiill ascent, lie might espy 

A stately chapel, richly jilt without. 

Beset with shady sycamores about : 

And ever and anon he might well hear 

A sound of musick steal in at his ear 

As the wind gave it being : so sweet an air 

Would strike a syren mute and ravish her. 

He sees no creature that might cause the same. 

But he was sure that from the grove it came. 

And to the grove he goes to satisfy 

The curiosity of ear and eye. 

Thorough the thick leav'd bouahs he makes a way, 

Nor could the scratching brambles make him stay ; 

But on he rushes, and climbs up the hill, 

Thorough a glade he saw, and heard his fill. 

A hundred virgins there he might espy 

Prostrate before a marble deity : 

Which by its portraiture appear'd to be 

The image of diana : on their knee 

They tender'd their devotions : with sweet airs, 

OfTring the incense of their praise and prayers. 

Their garments all alike ; 

And cross their snowy silken robes, they wore 
An azure scarf, with stars embroidered o'er. 
Their hair in curious tresses was knit up, 
CrownM with a silver crescent on the top. 
A silver be. their left hand held, their right 
For their defence, held a sharp-headed flight 
Drawn from their broidered quiver, neatly tied 
In silken cords, and fastened to their side. 
Under dieir vestments something short before 
White buskins lac'd wiUi ribbanding they wore. 
It was a catching sight for a young eye 
That Love had fir'd before ; he might espy 
One, whom the rest had sphere-like circled round, 
Whose head was with a golden chaplet crowu'd. 
He could not see her face, only his ear 
Was blest with the sweet words that came from her. 

2 K 



250 TIIEALMA AND CLEAUCHUS. 

Who would suppose, from the style of this beautiful passage, 
that it had been written upwards of three centuries ago ? Dr. 
Johnson knew very little of our old English poetry, or he would 
never have so egregiously overrated the improvements of the 
modei'ns. It is wonderful how shght a change has been effected 
in our language in so long a period as three hundred years. 
There is nothing in the lines just quoted to indicate their anti- 
quity. There is a greater number of old phrases in some of our 
living poets than in the page of Chalkhill. Though we dislike 
the incongruous mixture of archaisms and neologisms which 
deform the productions of too many of the poets of the present 
day, we observe with great delight that the study of our elder 
writers has led to the introduction of a fresher style of descrip- 
tion and a more varied music of verse than the public were 
accustomed to a few years ago. 

The following description of the situation of the cell of the 
witch Orandra would have been worthy of Spenser himself : 

Down in a gloomy valley thick with shade 

Which two aspiring hanging rocks had made, 

That shut out day, and barr'd the glorious sun 

From prying into th' actions there done ; 

Set full of box, and cypress, poplar, yew, 

And hateful elder that in thickets grew, 

Amongst whose boughs the screech-owl and night-crow 

Sadly recount their propliecies of woe, 

Where leather-winged bats, that hate tlie light. 

Fan the thick air, more sooty than the night. 

The ground o'er-grown with weeds, and bushy shrubs, 

Where milky hedgehogs nurse their prickly cubs : 

And here and there a mandrake grows, that strikes 

The hearers dead with their loud fatal shrieks ; 

Under whose spreading leaves the ugly toad. 

The adder, and the snake make their abode : 

Here dwelt Orandra. 

Then follows a very striking description of the cell itself. 

Her cell was hewn out in the marble rock, 
By more tlian human art; she need not knock, 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS, 251 

The door stood always open, large and \vide, 

Grown o'er with woolly moss on either side, 

And interwove witii ivie's flatt'ring twines, 

Thro' which the carbuncle and di'mond shines ; 

Not set by art, but there by Nature sown 

At the world's birth, so star-like bright they shone. 

They serv'd instead of tapers to give light 

To the dark entry, where perpetual Night, 

Friend to black deeds, and sire of ignorance, 

Shuts out all knowledge ; lest her eye by chance 

Might bring to light her follies : in they went. 

The ground was slrow'd with flowers, whose sweet scent, 

Mixt with tlie choice perfumes from India brought. 

Intoxicates his brain, and quickly caught 

His credulous sense ; the walls were gilt and set 

With precious stones, and all the roof was fret 

With a gold vine, whose straggling branches spread 

All o'er the arch ; the swelling grajies were red ; 

This art had made of rubies cluster'd so. 

To the quick'st eye they more than seem'd to grow. 

About the walls lascivious pictures hung. 

Such as whereof loose Ovid sometimes sung. 

The portrait of the witch herself, though powerfulh^ drawn, is 
rather too disgusting in some of its details, to permit of my trans- 
ferring it to these pages, as my sole object is to give pleasure 
to the reader. The following description of King Alexis (who 
turns out to be Clearchus), under the alternate influence of 
opposite emotions, is highly poetical and picturesque. The 
metre is singularly harmonious. It is a pity that the beauty of 
this little passage is somewhat marred by the word dropsy in the 
first hne. 

Now a fair day, anon a dropsy cloud 

Puts out the sun, and, in u sable shroud, 

The day seems buried ; when the clouds are o'er. 

The glorious sun shines brighter than before : 

But long it lasts not ; so Alexis far'd : 

His sun-like majesty was not impair'd 

So much by sorrow, but that now and then 

It would break forth into a smile again. 

2 K 2 



252 THBALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

In this beautiful old pastoral, a reader unacquainted with our 
elder English poets might find many lines that he would regard 
as strangely irregular and inharmonious. The very same pas- 
sages, however, would seem perfectly smooth aad accurate to an 
ear accustomed to our ancient pronunciation. In the following 
lines, for example, readers who have confined their poetical 
studies to modern verse, would feel themselves disappointed of 
the legitimate quantity of syllables. 

But she, being unwilling to be known, 
Answered his queie with this question. 
And all the passengers, save a young man, 
That fortune lescued from the ocean. 
A liot spurred youth hight Hyhis, such a one, 
As pride had iitied for commotion. 

But a very superficial acquaintance with our elder poets would 
prevent a reader from falling into a mistake of this nature. 
A great number of such words as patience, partial, nation, &c. &c. 
that are now inelegantly shortened into two sounds, were inva- 
riably resolved into their component syllables by all our poets 
until about the middle of the sixteenth century. Mr. Gifibrd, 
in his edition of Massinger, speaks of this peculiarity of accent 
as more characteristic of that writer than of his cotemporaries ; 
but on this point he is undoubtedly mistaken. It was not a cha- 
racteristic of any individual writer : it was the universal practice 
of the age. Every reader of Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont 
and Fletcher, Ford and Marlowe, is aware that it is almost 
impossible to hght on a single page of their productions in which 
they have not used such words as have been alluded to with a 
distinct trisyllabic sound. They frequently gave by this means 
a fluency and sweetness to their verse, of which tlie moderns have 
been deprived by the change in our pronunciation. The dactyle 
naslirdn, f.iationj is surely a richer and more pleasing sound, 
especially in a line of verse, than when cut down into the misera- 



THEALMA AND CLKARCHUS. 253 

ble modern trochee, nashiin. The former has a tremulous vibra- 
tion of tone that often gives an inexpressible charm to the music 
of the line in which it may occur. I envy not that reader's 
ear who can prefer the heavy, monotonous march of our modern 
verse to the lighter and less regular, but more natural movement 
of our ancient metres. Shenstoue has remarked, with that 
delicacy of taste for which he was so much distinguished, that 
there is a great beauty in the judicious use of dactyles in English 
heroic verse. He thought that Pope introduced it far too 
sparingly, and quotes from the " Windsor Forest" the second line 
of the following couplet, as an instance of its agreeable effect. 

Swift trouts diversified with crimson stains, 
And pikes^ the tyrants of the watery plains. 

Shenstone justly observes (though not perhaps precisely in 
these words, for I quote from memory) that the substitution of a 
trochee, such as the word liquid, would utterly destroy the 
finer harmony of the line. It would be easy to multiply examples 
in support of Shenstone's criticism, but I shall content myself 
with adding the following from the " Rape of the Lock." 

Our humbler province is to tend the fair, 
Not a less pleasing though less glorious care. 

Though our modern poets have already destroyed so many 
beautiful dactyles, it will be long, I hope, before they turn the 
noble word glorious into glorus ! 

Besides the defects in the versification of Chalkhill that I have 
shown to be apparent and not real, there are a few peculiarities 
that are not to be defended with equal ease. I allude to the 
occasional inaccuracies of his rhyme. But if Chalkhill has some- 
times deformed his verses with extremely imperfect rhymes, he is 
kept in countenance not only by the best writers of his time, but by 
one of the most correct of modern versifiers — namely. Pope himself. 
He who on the advice of Walsh, " the Muse's judge and friend," 



254 THEALMA AND CLKARCriUS. 

devoted his chief energies to the task of surpassing all his pre- 
decessors in point of accuracy, did not scruple to make use of 
such rhymes as thought fault — draught thought — skull fool — turn 
horn — imbrued blood — fiend friend — speak take — debate that — -join 
line — compelling Helen — fellow prunnella, and innumerable others 
of the same nature. 1 do not place any stress upon such trivial 
matters, but there are critics who would condemn in other 
poets what may pass unnoticed in the works of their own idol. 
Pope has himself observed, that poetry is an especially useful 
study to a foreigner desirous of speaking the language in which 
it may be written with accuracy and grace. 

Wliat will a child learn sooner than a song ? 
What better teach a foreigner the tongue.'' 

No Englishman, however, who has an ear or judgment of his own, 
could listen with gravity or patience to the sound of such words 
as we have just quoted from Pope, if they were enunciated in 
exact correspondence to the rhyme. Poor Kirke White's first 
volume of poems, which he had sent to the editor of the Monthli/ 
Review, with such feverish anxiety, was condemned by the savage 
and senseless Aristarchus, because boy and sky were used as cor- 
responding terminations ; and yet the same profound and impartial 
critic had doubtless seen rhymes greatly more imperfect in the 
works of Pope, without questioning for a moment that author's 
genius. It would be absurd, indeed, to judge of a poet's merits 
exclusively by his accuracy as a rhymester ; but when an author's 
" absolute faultlessness"* (an expression applied by Lord Bvron 
to the works of Pope) is too positively and frequently insisted 
upon, the attention of more sober critics is forced towards errors 
that would otherwise have escaped them entirely, or have been 



What does even Pope himself say on this point ? 
" Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, 

Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be." 



THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 255 

regarded with indifference. A humourous poem might be written 
by a punster, like Hood, upon the imperfect rhymes of Pope 
^-such as, groves loves (loaves),— waste past (paste), — care 
shear (share), — take speak (spake), — wear star (stare or stair), — 
alone town (tone), — desert heart (hurt), — frost coast (cost), — 
adores poivers (pores or pours), — ^joy tye (toy), — trod showed 
(shod), — track take (tack), — ^join line (loin), — worn turn (torn), 
— song tongue (tong), — extreme phlegm (phleme), — come doom 
(dumb), — food food (jiued), — pour shoiver (shore), or shower 
pour (power), — flood stood (stud), — bound wound [a hurt], 
wound [bandaged], — compare ivar (wear or tcere), — streams 
Thames (themes), — rest least (lest), — strow bough (bow [bo]), — 
suffice prize (price), — adores poivers (pores or pours), — fool skull 
(school), &c. &c. &c. The above rhymes are taken faithfully 
from the pages of Pope, and without going through a very large 
portion of his productions. 

Hazlitt has remarked, that Steele (in the Tatler) was the 
first writer, who used the antithetical style and verbal paradoxes 
which Burke was so fond of, in which the adjective is in seeming 
opposition to the substantive, as " dignified obedience," " proud 
submission," &c. &c. But this was not the case. The poem 
before us has several examples of them. In the first two or 
three pages we have " cruel fortunate," " dumb eloquence," " silent 
murmurs," &c. &c. There are some curious illustrations also of 
Pope's favorite rule of making the sound an echo to the sense. 
Here is an instance. 

He had a man-like look, and sparkling eye, 
A front whereon sate such a majesty, 
As awed all his beholders ; his long hair 
After the Grecian fashion, without care 
Hung down loosely on his shoulders, black as jet. 

This description reminds me of Hamlet's remarks upon his 
father's picture. 



256 THEALMA AND CLEARCHUS. 

See, what a grace was seated on this brow : 
Hyperion curls; the front of Jove himself; 
An eye like Mars to threaten and command, &c. 

There are many other passages that recal the great dramatic 
poet. 

Thy cruel augury 
Wounds me at heart ; can thy art cure that wound? 
St/lvaniis? No, no medicine can be found 
In human skill to cure that tender part. 
When the soul's pained, it finds no help of art. 

This must bring to the reader's recollection a sentiment in 
Macbeth. 

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased ? &c. 

There is a passage in Lear, not unlike the following : 

But how he might secure his Florimel, 

That thought most troubled him ; he knew full well 

S/ie was the white zvas aimed at. 

Thealma and Clearchus. 

See better, Lear : and let me still remain 

The true blank of thine eye. King Lear, 

The commentators explain that the word blank here is a term 
borrowed from archery ; the white of a target is that part of it 
which the arrow is chiefly aimed at. The same expression is used 
in the Taming of the Shrew. The following hnes are very similar 
to a passage in Shakspeare. 

At the sight 
She frowned upon him, and with angry look, 
A title that but ill became the book 
\V herein her milder thoughts were writ. 

The passage I allude to is the following, which occurs in the 
second part of Henry the Fourth. 

Yea, this man's brow, like to a title leaf, 
Foretells the nature of a trasiic volume. 



SONG. 257 

The poem of Thealma and Clearchus breaks off very abruptly, 
and I shall follow its example by bringing this article to an 
immediate close. At the end of the fragment (for such it is, 
though a very long one) honest Izaac Walton, with the quaint- 
ness and simplicity in keeping with his character, appends the 
following note : 

" And here the author died, and I hope the reader will be sorry.'' 



SONG. 



The sun is up — but feebly still 
He throws his yellow beam ; 

The gray mist shrouds the distant hill, 
And floats along the stream. 

The fluttering lark hangs on the air, 

And pours his matin lay. 
While Mirth and rosy Health repair 

To greet the rising day. 

The forest branches slowly wave 
Where sport the zephyrs coy. 

And Echo, from her hollow cave. 
Repeats each note of joy. 

The light airs cool my fevered brow. 

And pain and care depart. 
For Nature's holy radiance now 
Hath flashed upon my heart ! 
2 L 



[ 258 ] 



THE SEASONS OF LIFE. 

I. 

Could beauty's early bloom return, and boyhood's voice of mirth. 
Like floral hues and songs of birds when Spring revives the earth ; 
Though forms should fade — and hearts grow cold — and life's fair 

flowers decay, 
'Twere sweet to know that wintry spell ere long might pass away ! 

II. 
But when life's fleeting seasons fail, they leave the soul forlorn ; 
E'en Hope is silent at their close, of all her magic shorn ; 
Her brief successive lights but lead the pilgrim to his doom — 
The cold and dreamless sleep of death — the dungeon of the tomb. 

III. 
The green earth glitters in the sun — the skylark bathes in light — 
Rich odours float upon the breeze from vernal blossoms bright — 
A busy hum of insect joy the cheerful valley fills. 
And wandering Echo's shout is heard, like laughter, in the hills ! 

IV. 

Such sights and sounds and charms we leave, and, dearer far 

than all, 
The faces that we loved in youth — the tones that yet enthral ; — 
Oh ! when the thought of that dark hour o'ershades each bliss 

below. 
How quails the horror-stricken heart — how voiceless is the woe ! 

V. 

Yet when the solemn mandate comes that bids the doomed prepare. 
To change for death's dark stifling cell the free and pleasant air. 
Can no sweet sound the prisoner cheer — no hope-rekindling ray } 
Ah, yes ! — the voice that frees the soul — the light of endless day ! 



[ 259 ] 



ON CONVERSATION. 



Without good company, indeed, all dainties . 
Lose their true relish, and, like painted grapes. 
Are only seen, not tasted. 

Massi)iger. 
" By the use of the tongue, God hath distinguished us from beasts ; and by 
the well or ill using it we are distinguished fiom one another ; and therefore 
though silence be innocent as death, harmless as a rose's breath to a distant 
passenger, yet, it is rather the state of death than life ; and therefore when the 
Egyptians sacrificed to Harpocrates, their God of silence, in the midst of their 
rites tliey cried out, " Tlie tongue is an angel ; good or bad, that is as it hap- 
pens." 

Jeremy Taylor. 

" Conversation," says Seneca, " forms a large portion of the 
comfort of human Hfe." This commendation, however, is not to 
be apphed to ordinary discourse. " The best conversation," says 
the same morahst, " that we can ever have, is with philosophers ; 
I mean such as teach matter, not words ; that preach up to us 
necessary things, and engage us to practise them." The ancients 
appear to have turned conversation to nobler purposes than the 
moderns ; for not possessing those ready means of circulating 
knowledge through the medium of printed books and papers, 
which have been rendered so effective in the present age, they 
were compelled to trust for much of their fame and influence to 
oral communications. The original mode of multiplying manu- 
scripts was tedious and unsatisfactory, compared to the admirable 
process by which thought is now circulated with an almost 
electrical rapidity through all quarters of the globe. A man of 
superior sense and genius, unable to do justice to his own talents 
in social intercourse, may now console himself with the assurance 
that he has other and more powerful means of pouring out his 
soul, and of arousing the sympathy and attention of his fellow- 
2 L 2 



260 ON CONVERSATION. 

creatures. If the impression produced by his printed labours be 
less vivid and immediate than the effect of graceful and impas- 
sioned conversation, it is at all events far more permanent and 
extensive. Men of genius, who are conscious of their influence 
as authors, are often indifferent to the honours and advantages of 
colloquial eloquence, and indeed are too apt to associate their 
ideas of wisdom and ability with books alone. Confined to their 
silent cells they look not aljroad upon the living world, but upon 
the world of letters ; and in proportion to their real ignorance of 
life is their contempt for the general mass of their fellow-men. 
Those writers who have taken a more enlarged and philosophical 
view of human nature, have acknowledged the innumerable bene- 
fits to be derived from a free and cordial personal intercourse 
with society. The eccentricity, the dogmatism, the self-conceit 
and the visionary character of the literary recluse, would be 
greatly checked by an interchange of sentiments and opinions 
with men of less genius, but greater knowledge of life and of 
mankind. He would see subjects, which he had been accustomed 
to study from one point only, in an infinite variety of lights, and 
his mind would be stirred by fresh ideas and new suggestions. 
The learned and judicious Locke did not scorn the opinions of 
men in common life, and well knew the good that was to be 
gathered from a variety of counsel. The vulgar saying, that two 
heads are more than equal to one, is full of truth. " We see" 
(says the great writer just mentioned) " but in part, and there- 
fore it is no wonder we conclude not right from our partial 
views. This might instruct the proudest esteemer of his own 
parts, how useful it is to talk and consult with others, even such 
as come short of him in capacity, quickness and penetration ; for 
since no one sees all, and we generallv have different prospects 
of the same thing according to our different positions, it is not 
incongruous to think, nor beneath any man to try, whether 
another may not have notions of things which have escaped him. 



ON CONVERSATION. 261 

and which his reason would make use of if it came into his 
mind." Many of the wild absurdities in which theorists and 
metaphysicians have occasionally indulged, would probably have 
never found their way into print if they had been previously well 
canvassed in conversation. It is wonderful how much more 
plain good sense is diffused throughout society than is generally 
supposed. There is no opinion, however extravagant and ridicu- 
lous, which has not been countenanced and supported by some 
individual author, who would perhaps have been ashamed of 
its advocacy had it been freely discussed in his presence in 
an intelligent private circle. When called upon to explain his 
ideas in conversation, a man is obliged to give the very pith 
of the question. His hearers have no time or patience for ex- 
traneous details, or elaborate and ingenious mystification. 

" The most fruitful and natural exercise of the mind," says 
Montaigne, " is conversation, the use of which I find to be 
more agreeable than any other exercise in life. For this reason, 
were I now forced to make my choice, I think I would rather lose 
my sight, than my hearing or my speech." 

It is not good for man to be alone, and such is the force of the 
social principle, that even those who have willingly immured 
themselves for a time in the secret depths of solitude, are 
stirred with an irrepressible yearning towards the first human face 
that breaks like a gleam of sunshine upon their unnatural isolation. 
Men who meet in a coifee-house at London with cold and 
uneasy reserve, would fly into each other's arms in the deserts 
of Arabia. 

They who in crowded cities lead a lonely life, are only recon- 
ciled to their position by the consciousness of the proximity of 
their fellow-men. They would make as melancholy Robinson 
Crusoes as the most constant haunters of balls and parties. 
"We are never so truly happy as in the interchange of thou"-hts 
and feelings with each other, and the retired student is not less 



262 ON CONVERSATION. 

ambitious of the sympathy and esteem of his fellow- creatures 
than those who revel in the enjoyments of social life. His 
craving after the regard of the world is, in fact, far more 
vehement and intense ; for not contented with the admiration and 
love of a comparatively narrow circle of associates, he demands 
the sympathy of the puhlic mind. He hears the distant echoes 
of his fame, and exults in that supremacy of intellect, compared 
to which the power of a king is of a limited and vulgar nature. 
Silent reserve and an air of coldness are by no means infallible 
indications of apathy or selfishness. There is perhaps no man, 
for example, so little understood or so ill appreciated in general 
society, as the poet, whose excellence in his art is a proof of an 
impassioned temperament. But often while his heart overflows 
with social love, he is apparently the most unsocial of human 
beings. Deep feelings do not rise rapidly to the lips, and are 
rather checked than encouraged by the trivial forms and ceremo- 
nies of worldly intercourse. The most essential attribute of the 
true poet is a profound sympathy with human nature, and with 
the whole external world. It is the intensity of his emotions 
that compels him to " wreak himself upon expression," and appeal 
to the hearts of his fellow-creatures. As the passionate outpour- 
ing of his feelings would be ridiculous and unseasonable in the 
crowded hall, he retires to his study. When his companions in so- 
ciety are struck with his seeming apathy, his soul perhaps is tossed 
upon a sea of thought, or involved in a tempest of wild and 
incommunicable dreams. From being in some measure unfitted 
by his deep abstractions for the ordinary intercourse of life, 
he devotes himself more exclusively to the cultivation of his 
divine art, by which he is enabled even in his retirement to touch 
the general pulse with the contagious passion of his ow^n heart. 
In his remotest solitude he clings to human ties, and j'ejoices in 
stirring with kindred feelings the breasts of thousands to whom 
he is personally unknown. He feeds his inmost spirit with the 



ON CONVERSATION. 263 

manna of praise. He lives on the public breath. When he fails 
to impart delight, he is himself incapable of receiving it. His 
existence is inseparably connected with that of his fellow-creatures, 
and a mental isolation would be worse than death. His pride is 
in the power he possesses over the human heart. How glorious 
is the might of that magician, who, thus shrouded in personal 
obscuritv, causes the waves of human passion to rise and fall at 
his command ; who fires countless multitudes with his own 
enthusiasm, and stamps immortality on every burning word ! 

There are poets who have expressed a contempt for the public, 
and an indifi'erence to fame : but this is an unworthy affectation, 
and is strangely at variance with the general tenor of their lives. 
Epictetus has exposed the inconsistency of the ambitious with a 
just severity. " Why do you walk as if you had swallowed a bar 
of iron ? Who are those by whom you would be admired .'' Are 
they not the very people whom you were wont to say were mad ? 
W^ould you then be admired by madmen ?" 

It has often been a subject of dispute, whether reading or con- 
versation be attended with the greater benefit. The combination 
of both is of course more instructive than either separate. Mon- 
taigne has remarked that " The study of books is a languid 
and feeble motion, that does not warm : whereas conversation at 
once instructs and exercises." " Reading," says Lord Bacon, 
" maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing 
an exact man." The three advantages combined, supposing the 
accompaniment of intellect and virtue, would make a perfect 
man. 

Sir William Temple has a remark which bears on the same 
subject. " Study," says he, " gives strength to the mind ; 
conversation grace. The first is apt to give stiffness, the other 
suppleness." Locke is a great advocate for conversation, and 
•warns the learned not to think there is no truth but in the 
sciences that they study, or the books that they read. Plato 



264 ON CONVERSATION. 

preferred conversation to books ; and Seneca says, that " writing 
answers a good purpose, but conversation a better." 

If all men were philosophers, the advantages of conversation 
could not easily be overrated; but when we recollect how few 
are competent to raise its tone with important speculations, 
and that it too generally turns on trivial topics, or treats the 
weightiest with an impatient flippancy and a shallow dogmatism, 
it deserves not that high rank in our estimation which is rightly 
conceded to the deliberate and lasting wisdom enshrined in 
books. The conversation of ardent and original thinkers, is 
indeed 

" Tlie feast of reason and the flow of soul ;" 

but how rarely do such men meet together ! It is strictly true, as 
I have before admitted, that the conversation even of inferior 
persons has often the effect of raising new trains of thought, of 
refreshing the mind by an occasional change of its position, 
and of increasing our knowledge of human life ; but these be- 
nefits, great and unquestionable as they are, by no means equal 
that elegant and profound instruction which literature affords. 
The word conversation is rather vague. Were we to limit its 
meaning to the actual interchange of ideas and sentiments, it 
would be easy to enlarge upon its vast utility and its exquisite 
enjoyments ; but unhappily it is often applied to that glittering 
nonsense which passes from the mind like rain-drops from 
the wings of birds. Dr. Johnson would not allow that to be 
styled conversation in which nothing is discussed. 

The French are generally esteemed more skilful in colloquial 
intercourse than the EngUsh, but their excellence lies rather 
in chit-chat than conversation. They do not so much converse 
as talk. In readiness and fluency of speech they certainly surpass 
us, but not in depth or originality of thought. As there is a 
greater variety and force of character in our o^vn countrymen. 



ON CONVERSATION. 265 

they would be far more rich and entertaining in conversation than 
the French, if they were only half as communicative and polite. 
Profound thinkers, however, are sometimes dull in corapanv, for 
when they have to dive as it were to the bottom of their souls for 
the treasures which they would communicate to others, they 
cannot keep pace with those ready speakers whose thoughts lie 
upon the surface. " Men," says Sir William Temple, " talk 
without thinking, and think without talking." The same writer 
has quaintly remarked that " women, some sort of fools and 
madmen, are the greatest talkers." Authors, who are silent in 
society, seem to take a pleasure in revenging themselves in print 
on the garrulous and the noisy in conversation. Butler has 
humorously observed that those who talk on trifles speak with 
the greatest fluency, because the tongue is like a race-horse 
which runs the faster the lesser weight it carries. Jeremy 
Taylor remarks, that great knowledge, if it be without vanity, is 
the most severe bridle of the tongue. In the case of a fool, he 
says, " the tongue is hung loose, being like a bell in which there 
is nothing but tongue and noise." Cowper, whose timid and 
painful reserve rendered one of the finest minded men in the 
world the worst of companions, and who painted from himself in 
the following couplet — 

" Our sensibilities are so acute, 
The fear of being silent makes us mute," 

has omitted no occasion of sneering at voluble and ready talkers. 

" Where others toil with plulosophic force 
Their nimble nonsense takes a different course, 
Fhngs at your liead conviction in the lump, 
And gains remote conclusions at a jump.'' 

" I know a lady, that loves talking so incessantly that she will 
not give an echo fair play ; she has that everlasting rotation of 
tongue that an echo must wait till she dies, before it can 
2 M 



266 ON CONVERSATION. 

catch her last words ; — " This sentence from Congreve would 
apply to the character of Madame de Stael, though her brilliancy 
made amends for her rapidity. Schiller, in a letter to Goethe, 
savs of her that the worst thing about her, is " the marv^ellous 
rapidity of her tongue ; for in order to follow her, one must 
absolutely convert himself wholly into an organ of hearing." 
Byron describes her with more severity. " I admire her abili- 
ties," says his Lordship, " but reaUy her society is overwhelm- 
ing — an avalanche that buries one in glittering nonsense — all 
snow and sophistry." Swift has observed with his usual shrewd- 
ness and love of satire, that " the common fluency of speech in 
many men and most women, is owing to scarcity of matter, and 
a scarcity of words ; for whoever is a master of language and 
has a mind full of ideas, will be apt in speaking to hesitate upon 
the choice of both ; whereas common speakers have only one set 
of ideas and one set of words to clothe them in : and these are 
always ready at the mouth ; so people come faster out of a 
church when it is almost empty, than when a crowd is at the 
door." This apt and striking illustration reminds me of a similar 
passage in Montaigne. " The solicitude," says he, " of perform- 
ing well, and the effort of the mind too far strained, and too intent 
upon its undertaking, break the chain of thought, and hinder its 
progress, as is the case with water which being pressed by its 
force and quantity, passes with difficulty out of the neck of a full 
bottle*." Shakspeare, who painted almost every diversity of 
human character, and touched upon almost every subject with 
equal happiness, has hit off the great talker with admirable truth 
and spirit : — " Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more 
than any man in all Venice ; his reasons are as two grains of 



* This illustration is given a different turn by Pope, who says " it is with 
narrow-souled people as with narrow-necked bottles ; the less they have in 
them, tlie more noise they make in pouring it out." 



ON CONVERSATION. 267 

wheat hid in two bushels of chafF; you shall seek all day ere you 

find them ; and when you have them, they are not worth the 

search." There is an Italian proverb which says, that an eternal 

talker would be more agreeable company if the lock on his door 

were placed upon his mouth. 

The fair sex are usually great talkers, but I shall not be so 

ungallant as to infer that they talk too much. Their tones and 

looks can render even nonsense agreeable. Words pass through 

lovely lips like water through a sugared tube. 

" So sweet a language from so fair a mouth— 
Ah ! to what effort would it not persuade !" 

" The heavenly rhetoric" of a radiant eye casts a light upon 
the dullest subject, as the sun turns the dreariest vapours into 
clouds of gold. 

Great talkers amongst the women, independently of their other 
manifold advantages " 'gainst which the world can ne'er hold 
argument," are generally superior in sense and shrewdness to the 
same class amongst the men. If they are not in general very 
profound or extensive in their views, they observe the lighter 
characteristics of human nature with a more subtle vision than the 
sterner sex. Their quickness of observation in small personal 
matters, their delicate tact, the harmony of their voices, the 
sweetness of their looks, and the life, grace, and animation difius- 
ed over their entire manner, often render their conversation 
inexpressiblv enchanting. I do not of course allude to those who 
are below the general intellectual standard, or who confine their 
conversation to frivolous gossip and ill-natured scandal. It would 
be grossly unjust to characterize the whole sex by such excep- 
tions. Addison and Steele, though they generally afiiict an air of 
great gallantry towards the ladies, seem to take rather too much 
pleasure in exposing the failings of the weakest portion of the 
sex. " It has been said," observes a writer in the 2'atler, " in 
praise of some men, that they could talk whole hours upon fl«y 
2 M 2 



268 ON CONVERSATION. 

thing ; but it must be owned to the honour of the ladies, that the}' 
can talk whole hours together upon nothing." If a clever poem 
has been written upon " Nothing," why should not female con- 
versation occasionally turn upon it ? for the accompaniments of a 
fair face, bewitching smiles, and oral music are more delightful 
than even the embellishments of verse. The lively nonsense of 
an intelligent and lovely woman, who is known to be capable of 
better things at the proper season, is a most delicious relief to 
a man exhausted with the toil of thought. 

Lord Bacon recommends a slow and cautious mode of speaking 
in preference to rapid and unceasing rattle. " In all kinds of 
speech," says he, " either pleasant, grave, severe, or ordinary, 
it is convenient to speak leisurely, and rather drawlingly than 
hastily : because hasty speech confounds the memon^ and often- 
times, besides the unseemliness, drives a man either to stammering, 
a nonplus or harping upon that which should follow ; whereas 
a slow speech confirmeth the memory, addeth a conceit of wisdom 
to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech and countenance." 

We may not only speak with too great rapidity, but at too 
much length ; and this latter fault is far more intolerable than the 
former, particularly if the subject be unattractive or unseason- 
able in itself. An error of this nature betrays a lamentable want 
of tact and good breeding. A man who possesses the slightest 
knowledge of life, and is really desirous to please his company, is 
not likely to weary them with the sound of his own voice, or 
disgust them with unwelcome topics. He does not run on 
incessantly without directing his attention to the looks and 
manners of his hearers, who, if he be neither particularly rich 
nor powerful, will speedily betray their real feelings. When his 
best jokes are received with solemn gravity, or met with forced 
smiles that rapidly disappear like the cold gleams of a winter sun, 
the fact of his having said rather more than is necessary or 
agreeable requires no additional illustration. The great art under 



ON CONVERSATION. 269 

sucli circumstances is to make a sudden stop with grace and 
spirit, like the halt of a generous steed, and not betray by any 
uneasy and ungainly movement, the slightest anger, disappoint- 
ment or confusion. We should be careful not to interrupt others, 
and should try to make them regret when we have done. There 
are men who have so little knowledge or reflection, that they 
imagine they can interest even strangers and mixed companies 
with minute details of their bodily ailments. They talk as if 
every hearer were their physician. It is only the most intimate 
and the warmest friend to whom such conversation can be inter- 
esting. But the broadest rebuffs are no check to these egotistical 
invalids. Their most particular and pathetic narratives are gene- 
rally interrupted by some trivial remark about the weather, or 
some careless inquiry about the daily news. Even those, who 
prompted by a considerate politeness, are most ready to feign 
an appearance of interest and attention, usually turn their ques- 
tions rather on the cause than the nature of the complaints. All 
men are more or less concerned in the origin of disease, because 
they know not how soon they may be themselves afflicted, and are 
naturally anxious to guard themselves as much as possible from 
the ills of others by tracing their causes and the indications of 
their first approach. But nothing can possibly be less entertain- 
ing or agreeable to the generality of hearers, than elaborate 
disquisitions upon the actual condition of another person's body ; 
and no one whose faculty of observation is not blinded by the 
most egregious self-love, could fail to remark the indifference or 
distaste with which such particulars are usually received. Cow- 
per, whose admirable poem on Conversation shall furnish me with 
a few further illustrations, has described a valetudinarian bore 
with his wonted humour. 

" Souie men employ tlieir liealtb, an ugly trick, 
In making known how ollcn they've been sick, 
And give us in recituls of disease 
A doctor's trouble, but without the fees ; 



270 ON CONVERSATION. 

Relate how many weeks they kept their bed, 

How an emetic or cathartic sped ; 

Nothing is shi;htly touched, much less forgot, 

Nose, ears and eyes seem present on the spot. 

Now the distemper, spite of draught or pill, 

Victorious seemed, and nosv the doctor's skill ; 

And now — alas, for unforeseen mishaps ! 

They put on a damp night-cap, and relapse ; 

They thought they must have died, they were so bad ; 

Their peevish hearers almost wish they had." 

A worthy and even talented and well-read man may be very 
disagreeable in conversation, if he has no knowledge of the world, 
and is unable to accommodate himself to the taste and the mode of 
the society into which he happens to be thrown. It requires some 
tact to know when to speak and in what manner, and when to be 
silent, or to see how far we may introduce our own favourite sub- 
jects. It is generally a mark of imbecility or narrowness of mind 
when a man is unable to dismount from his hobby, or to direct his 
thoughts into new channels. Some literary men talk as they would 
write, forgetting that in a private circle they cannot always reckon 
upon the proper class of hearers, or find them in a congenial mood. 
We can do what we please with a book. We can take it up when 
we will, and reject it at other times without offence. It is an un- 
obtrusive companion. But a talker is our master, and has us at a 
manifest advantage. The rules of society compel us to listen, with 
a " sad civility." We have but one painful alternative, to be 
guilty of a species of rudeness which no man can forgive, or to 
endure the affliction with the best grace we can*. The class of 



* Lockhart tells us, that Scott was fond of repeating the following ver.-es of 
the Dean of St. Patrick, and that Scott himself furnished a happy exemplifica- 
tion of the rules which they embody. 

Conversation is but carving, — 

Give no more to every guest, 

Than he's able to digest ; 

Give him always of the prime, 

And but little at a time ; 



ON CONVERSATION. 271 

people I allude to speak much, but converse little. Coleridge was 
an example. He was a declaimer, a lecturer, a preacher — any 
thing in fact, but a conversationist. There is little difference in 
point of character between the monopolists in conversation and 
those who are utterly taciturn and absent. The first talk with 
scarcely any reference to their companions, and the others think 
with the same self- abstraction. The first are active, the others are 
passive nuisances. In both cases there is a want of respect towards 
the company. Neither of these offenders would act in the same 
way in the presence of those whom they greatly fear or regard. 
Lord Chesterfield has well observed, that it is better to be in the 
company of a dead man than an absent one, for the former if he 
gives no pleasure shows no contempt. It is a practical blunder, he 
adds, to talk to an absent man — you might as well address your- 
self to a deaf one. 

Egotists in conversation are often exceedingly offensive, not 
so much because we dislike to hear a man speak occasionally 
of himself, for some men have the power to talk of their own 
feelings and adventures in a very engaging manner, but because 
most of them are too apt to engross the whole attention of the 
company, and to be intolerant of the egotism of others in pro- 
portion to the intensity of their own. They who are really more 
desirous to make themselves agreeable in company than to shine 
and dazzle, should remember that in proportion to their own 
obvious exaltation is the depression of their hearers, who are 
not often generous enough to be delighted with those who force 
upon them a sense of their own inferiority. They should endea- 
vour to discover whether those whom they converse with are 
most in want of a listener or a speaker, and it is a good general 
rule rather to take than to give the tone of the conversation. 

Carve to all but just enough. 
Let them neitlier starve nor stuff; 
And that you may have your due 
Let your neighbours carve for you. 



272 o^f conversation. 

It is above all things necessary to avoid unseasonable topics 
and allusions. It is injudicious to launch out into flaming 
descriptions of the happiness, wealth and luxury of our acquaint- 
ances in the presence of those who are poor and melancholy, and 
who consider themselves especially ill-treated by fortune and the 
world. The comparison which such topics naturally suggest is 
painful in the extreme, and sometimes occasions a lasting irritation. 
Neither should we quote Scripture in the company of rakes and 
dnmkards, or swear in the presence of the clergy. As to the use 
of oaths, which was once esteemed an indication of manliness, it 
is no longer tolerated in respectable society. It is a practice more 
honored in the breach than the observance. Fortunately it re- 
quires no great exertion of heroism or philosophy to break 
ourselves of so idle and mean a habit. Archbishop Tillotson has 
pleasantly observed, that no man can plead in justification of it 
that he was born of a swearing constitution. 

A disposition to contradict and domineer is one of the worst 
faults of which a talker can be guilty, because the great art of 
conversation is to make every one in company feel so much at his 
ease as to be able to express himself with coolness and perspicuity. 
But an overbearing speaker excites either fear or indignation in 
all who hear him. At the same time it is necessary to guard 
against the opposite error of too much civility. Excess in this 
respect is a characteristic of bad breeding. / A clown makes more 
bows than a courtier. 

" Discourse may want an animated — No, 
To brush the surface and to make it flow." 

A perfect unison of judgment is unfavorable to conversation. 
We do not like to talk to mere echoes. " Pray contradict me," 
said a gentleman, annoyed by the constant and unequivocal assent 
of his hearer, "if it be only to prove that we are really two 
persons." To differ in an agreeable manner is the perfection of 



ON CONVERSATION. 273 

good breeding. Cowper has happily described a blustering and 
positive talker, and the mode in which he should be treated. 

" Vociferated lowic kills me quite, 
A noisy man is always in the right : 
I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair, 
Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare, 
And, when I hope his blunders are all out, 
Reply discreetly — ' To be sure — no doubt.' " 

The wit who follows up his anecdote or pun with noisy laugh- 
ter, and is ever on the watch for double meanings, seizing your 
smallest phrases as certain animals snap at flies, in fact a mere 
" word-catcher that lives on syllables," is a heavy check upon all 
sensible conversation. It is impossible to continue a discussion 
with any gravity, confidence or feeling, while some one is laying 
in wait for an expression which he may convert into an equivoque 
or an epigram. Professed wits always make us serious, though they 
may prevent us from pursuing the discussion of a serious subject. '2,^ 
The best of them must fail so much oftener than they succeed, that, 
if they are not particularly discreet, they soon weary and annoy their 
hearers. Even when they do succeed, their listeners have generally 
either anticipated something still better, or have been so long on 
the look out, that they are too much exhausted for any real enjoy- 
ment. The mood which is necessary to a full relish of a witticism 
is rarely of long continuance. A succession of surprises decreases 
in force at every fresh shock, and the wit that is anticipated loses 
half its power. The wit that is most effective is that which 
is least looked for, or that seems naturally suggested and is 
pertinently applied. It is then a great enlivener of conversation. 
Even the butt of conversation soon wearies us, unless, like Fal- 
stafF, he is witty in himself as well as the cause of wit in others. 
If he can give as well as take, he affords a delightful treat 
to those who are merrily inclined. A man of real humour 
will not make a butt of a mere fool who can give him no play. 
2 N 



274 ON CONVKRSATION. 

A skilful angler only exults in his sport when he has a strong and 
troublesome fish upon his hook, that puts him on his mettle, 
and requires all the power of his art. Goldsmith has somewhere 
verv justly observed, that though the company of fools may 
amuse us for awhile, it never fails to leave us melancholy in the 
end. 'Professed wits are generally too ambitious of display to 
think for a moment of the comfort or disposition of their hearers, j 
I am very far from insisting on an objection to wit and humour, if 
preserved within reasonable bounds. When introduced in season, 
and tempered by good taste and good feeling, they constitute 
very charming embellishments to conversation. Joanna Baillie 
has given us a good description of a fascinating companion in her 
tragedy of De Montford. 

" He is so full of pleasant anecdote, 
So rich, so gay, so poignant is liis wit. 
Time vanishes before him as he speaks. 
And ruddy morning through the lattice peeps 
Ere night seems well begun." 

The following sketch from the hand of Shakspeare, was once 
applied to Garrickby his friend Mr. Langton. If the application 
was a just and happy one, as we have every reason to believe, 
that celebrated actor must have been as delightful in the parlour 
as on the stage. 

-" A merrier man, 



Within the limits of becoming mirth, 
I never spent an hour's talk withal. 
His eye begets occasion for his wit ; 
For every object that the one doth catch, 
Tlie other turns to a mirth-moving jest; 
Which his fair tongue (Conceit's expositor) 
Delivers in such apt and gracious words. 
That aged ears play truant at his tales, 
And younger hearings are quite ravished ; 
So sweet and voluble is his discourse." 



ON CONVERSATION, 275 

It is not an easy matter to argue on subjects of deep interest 
in a calm and methodical manner. An argument is too generally 
a dispute, and combatants becoming violent and confused supply 
the place of reason with an excess of anger. At such a moment 
the best friends are often changed into bitter enemies, for a 
contemptuous sneer or a severe expression cuts deeper than the 
sharpest weapon. / 

Flattery, even when gross, is generally acceptable, because 
though its sincerity may be doubted, it is certain that the flatterer 
thinks us worthy of his art. He would not labour to please any 
one about whose good will or good opinion he was indiiferent. 
We are but too apt to encourage a flatterer, however much we 
may despise him. But of all compliments, that of deference, 
implied rather than expressed, is the most delicate and delightful. 
Its effect is irresistible. When this species of respect is paid 
to us in the presence of others by a person of respectability 
and judgment, it is especially agreeable. Lavater has very 
shrewdly remarked that he should set that man down as an 
inferior, who would listen to him in a ttte-a-t^te, but contradict 
him in the presence of a third person. 

The Guardian recommends it as good policy to prepare ourselves 
for conversation, by looking further than our neighbours into 
the reigning subject. This method is not a bad one, though 
as the writer himself admits, a man coming full charged into 
company would be eager to unload at all risks, whether he had 
a handsome opportunity or not. Without exquisite good sense 
and discretion such a proceeding would involve him in many 
difficulties, which if he were less ambitious he might easily 
escape. A memory well stored with personal anecdotes and 
adventures is a glorious armoury for a talker, if he knows how 
to handle his weapons. But the worst of this species of triumph 
is its brevity. The best memory is soon exhausted, and though 
the anecdote-monger be delightful to new friends he is very 
2 N 2 



276 ON CONVERSATION. 

■wearisome to old ones. A thrice told tale is an aliomination not 
easily endured. An anecdote or story that is new, brief, and 
pertinent is of course always agreeable. 

" But sedentary weavers of long tales, 

Give me the fidgets, and my patience fails. 

'Tis the most asinine employ on eartii 

To hear them tell of parentage and birth, 

And echo conversations dull and dry 

Embellished with — ' he said,' and ' so said I !' 

At every inten'iew their route the same 

The repetition makes attention lame ; 

We bustle up with unsuccessful speed, 

And in the saddest part cry — ' Droll indeed !' " 

Johnson observes that Swift told stories with great facility, 
and delighted in doing what he knew himself to do well ; but 
being captivated by the respectful silence of a steady listener, 
he told the same tales too often. 

Excessive laughter (especially in the wrong place, which it 
often must be, for it is rarely indeed that there is occasion for its 
constant repetition) is the mark of great weakness and shallow- 
ness of mind. It is very painful to be obliged to return it with a 
grave look, or to feign a sympathy. But of all nuisances, the 
practical jokers are the most disgusting. Unhappily it requires 
so little capital to set up in this line, that there is scarcely a merry 
company in which one of these humble humourists is not to be 
met with. Any body can steal your handkerchief, or draw your 
seat from under you when you have occasion to rise. But such 
easy tricks are surely beneath the ambition of a gentleman. His 
groom would at least equal him in similar buffoonery. Such con- 
duct inevitably leads to too much famiharity, and an old proverb 
may inform us of its ultimate effect. Amongst the greatest sins 
in conversation is that of scandal. I have been grieved to see how 
much this vile propensity is encouraged amongst our fair countiy- 
women in India. This is a sore point, and I content myself with 



ON CONVERSATION. 277 

a bare allusion to it. Its odious nature requires no illustra- 
tion. The fair sex have generally too much good sense and 
good feeling not to admit, that to be hated it needs but to be 
brought to their serious notice, though in their thoughtless and 
unguarded moments too many of them are apt to indulge in it 
themselves, and to countenance it in others. But if the ladies 
sometimes fall into this ungenerous and unworthy practice, the 
men in this country are but too apt to fall into another still more 
disgraceful. I have been in the company of men of first-rate 
talents and acquirements, who seemed to act on the principle of 
Sir Robert Walpole, who always introduced obscenity into con- 
versation, because he thought it was the only subject which all men 
could understand, and in which they could be deeply interested 
•without falling into bickerings and disputes. Tliis sentiment is 
an insult to human nature, and is as false as it is offensive. If I 
notice these two occasional defects in Indian society, it is not 
because I have not seen much more in it to commend than to 
censure. In Calcutta especially, I have heard as refined and 
intellectual conversation as the most fastidious could desire. 

It is generally observed that conversation is not excellent or 
varied in proportion to the largeness of the company, but that 
on the contrary it is limited and restrained from more or less of 
a sense of embarrassment in some speakers, and an eagerness to 
talk and a desire to shine in others, and the necessity of introduc- 
ing only those general discussions in which all can join. Any 
thing approaching to the sentimental, the impassioned or the 
confidential is quite unseasonable in a large company. Perhaps 
the most delightful conversation is between two or three indivi- 
duals of similar pursuits and interests, who agreeing in all broad 
views differ only on particular points, and who are sufficiently 
intimate (without being too familiar) to be able to pour forth 
their genuine feelings and give expression to their inmost 
thoughts. Conversation is always flat, frivolous and uneasy at 



278 ON CONVERSATION. 

morning visits. The most congenial period for colloquial dis- 
course is after a late dinner, by a cheerful fireside, or at least 
by candle-light. Such a scene as the following prepares us for a 
free and cordial interchange of thoughts. 

" Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, 
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round. 
And while the bubbling and loiid-hissing um 
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups 
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each ; 
So let us welcome peaceful evening in." 

At such a time the ingenuous heart reveals its eloquent secrets ; 
and the feelings, that in the broad daylight and amid the shock 
and the hum of strife and business were painfully repressed, gush 
forth with a charming air of confidence and sincerity. It is in 
such an hour that men seem most capable of friendship. A spell 
is upon them, and they forget for a while their worldly coldness 
and reserve. They no longer act upon a selfish and heart- 
freezing system, which teaches us to treat our best friends as if 
they might hereafter become our bitterest enemies. 

It is said that neither Pope nor Dryden were good talkers. The 
latter has told us of himself that he was " saturnine and reserved, 
and not one of those who endeavour to entertain company by lively 
sallies of merriment and wit ;" and Pope was too conscious of his 
fame, and too fearful of committing himself. Still the conversa- 
tion of these eminent men, when they felt themselves perfectly at 
their ease, and their associates were not unworthy of them, cannot 
have been otherwise than delightful and instructive. But it is not 
every dav that a literary man can meet with those who are capable 
of talking with him, or who are fit to listen. " Nothing," says 
Petrarch, "is so tiresome as to converse with a person who has 
not the same information as one's self." His biographers tell 
us that Petrarch was not alwavs sociable, but that the moment 
he felt disposed to give himself to society, he conversed with 



ON CONVERSATION. 279 

the utmost freedom. " If I seem to my friends," says the poet, 
"to be a great talker, it is because I see them seldom, and then I 
talk as much in a day as will compensate for the silence of a 
year." Mr. Taylor (the author of the humourous poem of 
Monsieur TunsonJ says, that Mr. Murphy, the translator of Tacitus, 
used to frequent a bookseller's shop, the resort of several literary 
men, for the purpose of listening to Akenside's conversation, 
vphile he himself pretended to be reading a book. He said that 
nothing could be more delightful. Mr. Murphy and the poet 
never, however, became personally acquainted with each other. 

Milton with " a fit audience, though few," w^as no doubt most 
instructive and enchanting in conversation. It makes us even 
exult in our common human nature, when we think " of that 
celestial colloquy sublime" which he must have held with worthy 
spirits. Who does not kindle at the thought of the honor and 
delight which Mr. Lawrence must have felt in being the friend 
and associate of such a man as Milton ? How the following 
sonnet must have stirred his heart ! 

TO MK. LAWRENCE. 

Lawrence, of virtuous father, virtuous son, 
Now thtit the fields are dank and ways are mire, 
Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire 
Help waste a sullen day, what may be won 
From the hard season gaining ? Time will run 
On smoother, till Favonius re-inspire 
The frozen earth, and clothe in fresh attire 
The lily and rose, that neither sowed nor spun. 
What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice 
Of attic taste, with wine, whence we may rise 
To hear the lute well touched, or artful voice 
Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air ? 
He who of those delights can judge, and spare 
To interpose them oft, is not unwise. 

Some of our modern essayists have entered into the question of 
whether authors or men of the world are the most agreeable and 



280 ON CONVERSATION. 

instructive in conversation. Rousseau has remarked in his 
Emilius, that the conversation of authors is better than their 
books ; and if this be really the case, it must certainly be better 
than the conversation of the majority of other men, whose table- 
talk would appear but tame and frivolous in print. Tlie know- 
ledge of literary men is superior in quality to the knowledge of 
other people, inasmuch as it is not technical and professional, but 
of universal application. They do not address themselves to 
lawyers, soldiers or physicians, but to human beings, with a gene- 
ral reference to their common nature. Dr. Johnson's conversa- 
tion, as recorded by Boswell, has been considered superior to his 
writings. It was more subtle, animated and pointed than his 
laboured and formal compositions. Yet, though whatever he said 
was always worthy of preservation, he was not an agreeable 
converser. He carried the monarchical principle into conversa- 
tion, and made himself its representative. He allowed no equality. 
His hearers were his subjects, and he ruled them with a rod 
of iron. The utmost they could venture upon was a timid 
question. Goldsmith wittily and truly applied a passage in one 
of Gibber's plays to Dr. Johnson. " There is no arguing with 
Johnson," said he ; " for when his pistol misses fire, he knocks 
his adversary down with the butt end of it." Burke seems to 
have been the only man who was any thing like a match for 
him ; and so jealous was Johnson of his own supremacy, and so 
highly did he respect the conversational abilities of his eloquent 
friend, that on one occasion, when debiUtated by sickness, he 
said of him. " that fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I 
to see Burke now it would kill me." Burke was indeed a for- 
midable antagonist, who neither dealt in dogmatisms himself, 
nor encouraged them in others. There was great shrewdness 
in the question put by Goldsmith to Boswell, who was too extra- 
vagantly praising the conversation of Johnson. " Can he 
wind into a subject hke a serpent, as Burke does V said the 



ON CONVERSATION. 281 

poet*. Goldsmith himself was generally an indifferent and 
blundering converser. Horace Walpole called him " an inspired 
idiot." Garrick said, that 

" lie wrote like an angel and talked like poor Poll." 
But he blurted out occasionally many admirable sayings, which 
would have made the fortune of any other man who did not 
neutralize their effect with similar failings. His printed com- 
positions are as remarkable for grace and perspicuity as was his 
conversation for that hurry and confusion which are generally 
considered characteristic of his countrymen. The most amusing 
anecdote that we have of his conversation is his singidarly in- 
felicitous attempt to repeat a good pun. Some one directed a 
servant to take a dish of bad-coloured peas to a particular place. 
"When asked his reason for sending them in that direction, he 
replied that it was the way to turn 'em green (Turnham green). 
Goldsmith, desirous to shine, though in borrowed plumes, endea- 
voured to repeat the pun in another company. A similar question 
was put to him. " Oh !" said he, " that is the way to make them 
green." There have been other authors who were as much out 
of their element in society as Goldsmith, but I still doubt if there 
are not a greater number of good talkers amongst literarv men 
than are to be found in any other class. 

Some artists are delightful talkers. Barry Cornwall (Proctor) 
represents Haydon's as singularly vivid and picturesque. He had 
heard him describe Edinburgh in a shower of rain in a way that 
made it palpably visible to the imagination. 



* Charles Butler in his Reminiscences thus characterises the conversation of 
Fox, Pitt, and Burke:—" In familiar conversation, these three great men 
equally excelled, but even the most intimate friends of Mr. Fox complained of 
his too frequent ruminating silence. Mr, Pitt talked ;— and his talk was 
fascinating-. A good judge said of him, that he was the only person he had 
known, who possessed the talent of condescension. Yet his loftiness never 
forsook him ; still one might be sooner seduced to take liberties with him than 
with I\lr. Fox. Mr. Burke's conversation was rambling, but splendid, rich 
and instructive beyond comparison. 

2 o 



282 ON CONVERSATION. 

Montaigne asserts of himself that he spoke much better than 
he wrote. If he did, he must have been a divine companion. 
With such a man "conversing," we might well " forget all time, 
all seasons and their change." 

" His wit 

And subtle talk would cheer the winter night. 
And make me know myself : — and the fire-light 
Would flash upon our faces, till the day 
Might dawn, and make me wonder at my stay." 

Julian and Maddulo. 

Beattie was delighted with the conversation of Gray. " He 
was happy," he observes, " in a singular facility of expression. 
His conversation abounded in original observations, delivered with 
no appearance of sententious formality, and seeming to arise 
spontaneously without study or premeditation." 

The conversation of authors, says Hazlitt, is not so good as 
might be imagined, but such as it is (and with rare exceptions) it 
is better than any other. His own was acute, original, and 
profound. He " threw a light as from a painted window" on the 
dreariest subject, and untwisted the knot of a complicated argu- 
ment with a magical dexterity. His delivery was sometimes 
difficult and irregular, but his matter was so rich that his compa- 
nions could well afford to overlook the manner. If they could 
think at all, he charmed them as with a spell, and when he was 
once thoroughly interested in some important subject, his eloquent 
words flowed as rapidly as his thoughts, and he gave his heai'ers 
good reason to exclaim, 

IIow charming is divine philosophy ! 

Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose, 

But musical as is Apollo's lute. 

He has well described the conversation and manner of his friend 
Leigh Hunt. " Hunt has a fine vinous spirit about him. He 
sits at the head of a party with great gaiety and grace ; has an 
elegant manner and turn of features ; has continual sportive sallies 



ON CONVERSATION. 2S3 

of wit or fancy ; tells a story capitally : mimics an actor or an 
acquaintance to admiration ; laughs with great glee and good 
humour at his own and other people's jokes : understands the 
point of an equivoque or an observation immediately ; has a taste 
for, and knowledge of, books, of music, of medals ; manages an 
argument adroitly ; is genteel and gallant, and has a set of bye- 
phrases and quaint allusions always at hand to produce a laugh." 
Shelley has described Leigh Hunt in a poetical epistle. 

" You will see H — t ; one of those happy souls 
Which are the salt of the earth, and without whom 
This world would smell like what it is — a tomb ; 
Who is, what others seein ; — his room no doubt 
Is still adorned by many a cast from Shout, 
With graceful flowers tastefully placed about; 
And coronals of bay from ribbands hun^, 
And brighter wreaths in neat disorder flung.'' 

Keats has also done due honor to Leigh Hunt's refined yet 
frank and social conversation. 

" He who elegantly chats and talks, 

The wronged Libertas — who has told you stories 
Of laurel chaplets and Apollo's glories, 
Of troops chivalrous marching through a city, 
And tearful ladies made for love and pity." 

Wordsworth is said to be an eloquent and instructive talker, 
especially on poetical subjects. He is not however fond of mere 
gossip, as may be gathered from the following very curious 
sonnet. 

" I am not one who much or oft delight 
To season my fireside with personal talk 
Of friends, who live within an easy walk, 
Of neighbours, daily, weekly in my sight : 
And for my chance acquaintance. Ladies bright, 
Sons, mothers, maidens withering on the stalk, 
These all wear out of me, Uke forms, with chalk 
Painted on rich men's floors, for one feast night. 
2 o 2 



284 ON CONVERSATION, 

Better than such discourse doth silence long, 
Lon^, barren silence square witli my desire : 
To sit without emotion, liope or aim, 
In the loved presence of my cottage fire, 
And listen to the flapping of the flame, 
Or kettle whi.spering its faint under-song." 

It is said of Charles Lamb, in the Plain Speaker, that he is 
" the most delightful, the most provoking, the most witty and 
sensible of men. He always makes the best pun and the best 
remark in the course of the evening. His serious conversation, 
like his serious writing, is his best. No one ever stammered out 
such fine, piquant, deep, eloquent things in half a dozen half sen- 
tences as he does." Home Tooke was a master of the intellec- 
tual foils ; so were Dr. Parr and Professor Porson. Sir Walter 
Scott was narrative and entertaining, but I suspect he did not 
shine in wit or argument. Thomas Campbell's conversation 
is that of a scholar, a poet and a warm-hearted man. " He is 
one of the few," says Leigh Hunt, " with whom I could at any 
time walk a dozen miles through the snow to spend an afternoon." 
Rogers, according to the testimony of Lord Byron, is silent and 
severe ; but when he does talk, he talks well, and on all subjects 
of taste, his delicacy of expression is pure as his poetrv. Moore's 
conversation is also as brilliant as his verses. Byron's was un- 
equal, but occasionally spirited and delightful. It would be easy 
to extend this list of authors who have excelled in colloquial inter- 
course, and it would be equally easy to adduce a number of strik- 
ing exceptions*. But this article is already too long, and I must 

* " Mr. Hume's writings were so superior to his conversation, that I frequent- 
ly said he understood nothing till he had written upon it." — Horace U alpole. 

"If I am obliged to speak I infalhbly talk, nonsense. What is still worse, 
instead of learning to be silent, when 1 have absolutely nothing to say, it is ge- 
nerally at such times that I have a violent inclination for talking ; and endeavour- 
ing to pay my debt of conversation as speedily as possible, I hastily gabble a 
number of words without ideas, happy when they only chance to mean nothing : 
thus endeavouring to conquer or hide my incapacity, I rarely fail to show it." — 
liouiseau's Confessions. 



SONNET. 285 

content myself with adding, that the best proof of the general 
superiority of the conversation of authors is the fact already 
alluded to, that it would in most instances bear to be recorded in 
a book, which is not the case with the conversation of other men, 
who, though they may seem to talk with considerable brilliancy, 
would very rarely have occasion to congratulate themselves on 
the appearance of their Table Talk in a printed iform. 



SONNET. 

There are no mortal limits to the sway 

That God hath given the spirit, of this frame 

The tenant, not the prisoner. Nought can tame 

Her sovereign will. She mocks at human clay, 

The dim weak wall that seemeth like a stay ; — 

So the fair moon that envious night would shame. 

And shroud her form divine, out-bursts like flame 

From smouldering fires, and brightens on her way ! 

The forehead pale, despite its ivory bound. 

As glass is fragile, and the eye as clear. 

When the roused soul awakes. The scenes around 

Her worldly path — hills, vales, and woods, — appear 

Her realm no more. She soars from earth's low ground. 

And seeks, on viewless wings, a holier sphere. 



[ 286 ] 



LINES TO A LADY SINGING. 

A VOICE divine is echoing in my heart — 

The tears are in mine eyes ; — oh ! never, never 

Did hoher tones from worldly cares dissever 

The dreamer's soul ! I feel myself depart 

From life's dim land. Enchantress as thou art> 

Oh ! that thy magic spells could last for ever ! 

But bliss eternal owns no mortal giver : — 

The song hath ceased ! — I wake with sudden start. 

Like one half-sleeping on a murmuring river, 

"When the bark strikes the shore : — the trance is broken ! 

Hark ! — sweeter sounds than aught e'er sung or spoken 

By human lips before, (a seraph's strain,) 

Like floral fragrance from a breeze- stirred bower. 

Float on the ravished atmosphere again ! 

Oh exquisite excess ! Oh ! tones too sweet 

For mortal ear with tranquil nerve to meet ; 

The sense is almost troubled with your power. 

Yet cease not — cease not — rain upon my heart. 

Ye showers of song, and drown each thought in bliss 

As wild and wanton as the first sweet kiss 

Wakes in the lover's brain ! 

As glad birds dart 
Through earth's dull mist, and cleaving sunnier air. 
Send down their liquid notes from fields of hght. 
So thou, fair Minstrel, seem'st from regions bright 
To breathe celestial hymns ! Thy music rare 
Like matin songs that cheer departing night. 



THE VOICE OF LOVE. 287 

While charmed Aurora stealeth o'er the height 
Of orient hills, would chase the hideous gloom 
Of desolate hearts wild-struggling with despair. 
And frightened Hope recal ! 

More sweet than bloom 
Of vernal bowers to desert- wearied eyes. 
And sweeter than the sudden sound of streams 
That sun-parched wanderers hear with glad surprise. 
Is thy melodious magic to the breast 
That Care hath haunted with her cloud-like dreams. 
Or passion stirred to madness. Peace and rest 
Attend thy voice, thus potent as a word 
From sacred lips when earthly hopes decline ; 
Or as those visionary notes divine 
Rapt Mirza on the hills of Bagdat heard ! 



THE VOICE OF LOVE. 

Oh ! if there is a magic charm, amid this desert drear. 

The long, dull, weary way to cheat — our darkest dreams to cheer. 

It is the tender voice of Love, that echoes o'er the mind 

Like music on a twilight lake, or bells upon the wind ! 

Oh ! dread would be the rugged road, and sad the wanderer's heart. 
Should that celestial harmony from life's dim sphere depart ! 
Oh ! how, for that far distant land, would sigh the lonely breast, 
' Where the wicked cease from troubUng, and the weary are at rest !' 



[ 288 J 

LONDON, IN THE MORNING. 
The morning wakes, and through the misty air 
In sickly radiance struggles — like the dream 
Of sorrow- shrouded hope. O'er Thames' dull stream, 
"Whose sluggish waves a wealthy burden bear 
From every port and clime, the pallid glare 
Of early sun-light spreads. The long streets seem 
Unpeopled now, but soon each path shall teem 
With hurried feet, and visages of care ; 
And eager throngs shall meet where dusky marts 
Resound like ocean-caverns, with the din 
Of toil and strife and agony and sin. 
Trade's busy Babel ! Ah ! how many hearts 
By lust of gold to thy dim temples brought 
In happier hours have scorned the prize they sought ! 



VIEW OF CALCUTTA. 
Here Passion's restless eye and spirit rude 
May greet no kindred images of power 
To fear or wonder ministrant. — No tower. 
Time-struck and tenantless, here seems to brood. 
In the dread majesty of solitude. 
O'er human pride departed — no rocks lower 
O'er ravenous billows — no vast hollow wood 
Rings with the lion's thunder — no dark bower 
The crouching tiger haunts — no gloomy cave 
Glitters with savage eyes ! — But all the scene 
Is calm and cheerful. At the mild command 
Of Britain's sons, the skilful and the brave. 
Fair Palace-structures decorate the land. 
And proud ships float on Hooghly's breast serene ! 



[ 289 ] 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES*. 



For half a century Sir Egerton Brydges has struggled to obtain 
a name in Literature. His success has not been in proportion to 
the length and earnestness of his labour. It is only to those who 
follow literature as a profession, and the few readers who, not 
satisfied to confine themselves to an acquaintance with the idols 
of the public, keep an eye upon all who have any claims what- 
ever to the honors of authorship, that the reputation and the 
works of Sir Egerton Brydges are at all familiar. No living 
writer who has been equally industrious and prolific has ex- 
cited so Httle general notice. The books that he has written, 
edited or compiled amount to about sixty volumes ! When 
to these are added his contributions to almost every kind of 
review and magazine, one is naturally surprised at the extent 
of his labours and the obscurity of his name. If his accom- 
plishments were superficial, or his learning abstruse — or if his 
style were dull and his subjects unpopular, it would be more easy 
to account for the neglect that he has experienced. But his 
characteristics are the reverse of these. His manner is always 
lively ; his knowledge is elegant and extensive, rather than pro- 
found ; and he has often handled topics of general interest with 
energy and truth. He has never opposed the stream of popular 
opinion. During the rage for poetry from the time of Cowper 
to Byron, he courted the Muses with toil and ardour ; and when 

* This article was written after the perusal of the work entitled " The Auto- 
biography, Times, Opinions, and Contemporaries of Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart, 
(per legem terrae) Baron Chandos of Sudely, <btc." 

2 F 



290 SIR EGERTON BRYDGKS. 

the Minerva Press was the fashionable emporium for sentimental 
and romantic prose fictions. Sir Egerton supplied the public with 
novels adapted to the prevailing taste. His Sonnets, though pub- 
lished at a time when that form of composition w-as extremely 
fashionable, and when those of Charlotte Smith were running 
rapidly through new and large editions, attracted but very slight 
attention ; while his novels of Mary de Clifford and Fitz-Albini 
were equally unfortunate. The " Letters on the Character and 
Poetical Genius of Lord Byron," published in one volume octavo, 
in 1824, the year of the poet's death, were perhaps more success- 
ful than any of his previoijs works ; but even these made no deep 
or lasting impression on the public mind, though the subject and 
the style were of a highly popular nature. Mr. Moore speaks 
very respectfully of these letters ; and observes, that " they con- 
tain many just and striking views." Lord Byron himself had a 
favorable opinion of the talents of Sir Egerton Brydges, and made 
the following entry in his journal — " Redde the Ruminator — a 
collection of Essays, by a strange but able old man (Sir E. B.)." 
This " strange but able old man" seems to have met with more 
kindness and respect from eminent individuals than from the public. 
He congratulates himself on the good opinion of Wordsworth and 
Southey, and he has just reason to do so. Of the precise nature of 
Wordsworth's praise we are not afforded the means of judging ; 
but there are some passages in the two or three beautiful letters 
from Southey which, whether with or without his consent. Sir 
Egerton has published at fuU length, that must have afforded him 
the most exquisite gratification. I do not wonder at his eagerness 
to print them ; for, as far as individual testimony extends, they 
are extremely valuable. The public, however, are, after all, the 
final and the least fallible judges of literary merit. Their last 
and deliberate decisions are almost always right, and have an 
authority far superior to that of any individual, however eminent. 
Byron's contempt for Spenser, and his estimation of Pope above 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 291 

all other English poets, and his inscription of the name of Rogers 
at the top of a literary pyramid of contemporary poets, and of 
Wordsworth, of Coleridge, and of Southey, nearly at the base, 
has had no influence whatever on the general judgment respect- 
ing the relative merits of these poets, though it may have called 
into question his own candour or acumen. Neither has Coleridge's 
enthusiastic admiration of the sonnets of Bowles, or Hazlitt's 
over-praise of those of Warton affected in the slightest degree the 
decisions of the pubhc. The former are generally acknowledged 
to be delicate and harmonious, but querulous and feeble ; and the 
latter refined and thoughtful, but too intricate and pedantic . These 
opinions of the majority of readers, are undoubtedly more moderate 
and just than those of Hazlitt and Coleridge, who were influenced 
in this case by accidental associations. If the voice of a great 
poet were the voice of fame, Cowper would have bestowed im- 
mortality on the name of Hayley. Even Southey's generous praise 
of him in the Quarterly Review will not save him from obliNnon*, 
It is true that there are passages in literary history which seem to 
prove the uncertainty of the public mind. That it exhibits occa- 
sional obliquities of taste, and is unduly influenced by temporary 
causes, is not to be denied ; but these faults are neither so fre- 
quent nor so remarkable as the prejudices and caprices of indi- 
viduals. It is pretty clear, we think, that there has been no truly 
great poet respecting whose character the public has committed 
any serious mistake, whatever may have been the sentiments of 
a few individuals. It is said that the poetry of Milton was for 
many years neglected. In opposition to this opinion it may be 
asserted that he had as many readers as could have been fairly 
expected, considering the time he wrote and the character of his 



* The very beautiful though too laudatory article here alluded to, was almost 
refused insertion by JMr. GifFord ; and Southey has confessed that if it had been 
positively rejected, it would have alienated liim from the Review. 

2 p 2 



292 SIR EGERTON BRTDGE3. 

poetry. It is to be remembered also that a general sense of Mil- 
ton's merit might precede his popularity. In fact, he is not yet, 
and perhaps never will be, a popular poet ; though all men ac- 
knowledge him to be a great one. Goldsmith is at this day more 
generally read than Milton : but those who read Goldsmith more 
than Milton make no mistake about the respective merits of these 
writers. They merely show that they prefer tenderness to subli- 
mity, or that they can enjoy for a longer period or with greater 
frequency or a more congenial feeling those strokes of genius that 
stir the gentler emotions of the heart, than those empyreal flights 
of the imagination which require the strained and unflagging at- 
tention of the mind. But that Milton's genius is of a higher order 
than that of Goldsmith, is universally understood, and the greater 
popularity of the latter is no argument whatever against the public 
judgment. The one has a more extensive popularity, the other 
has a higher fame. 

The lately published auto-biography of Sir Egerton Brydges 
would afford Mr. D'Israeli an interesting subject for an additional 
chapter to his Essay on the Literary Character. For the mere 
lovers of personal gossip and light reading the work has compa- 
ratively few attractions ; for nothing can be more slight, capri- 
cious, and unsatisfactory, than the l)iographical anecdotes and 
details, and the mode in which they are recorded. It is a psycho- 
logical, not a personal memoir. The author has given us his 
thoughts and opinions, but not his life. The only incident in his 
personal career that he has dwelt upon at any length, is the re- 
jection of his claim to the right of a peerage ; and even this por- 
tion of his work is much less narrative than reflective. The cir- 
cumstances of the case are given in a very brief space, but the 
effect of this disappointment on his mind and character may be 
traced from his first page to his last ; and it is difficult to say 
whether his life has been most embittered by his failure in the 
Temple of the Muses, or in the House of Lords. The main pur- 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 293 

port of his autobiography is to prove that he has been unjustly treat- 
ed by the nobility and the public, and that notwithstanding the 
opposition he has met with in both capacities, he is entitled to be 
recognized as a peer and a poet of a high order. He is so tho- 
roughly blinded by pride and passion, that, like Rousseau, he thinks 
the whole world is in a conspiracy against him. The unfavour- 
able decision of the Lords and the severity of the critics are edike 
attributed to jealousy and hatred. His disappointed ambition has 
excited a burning fever in his soul that the grave alone may cure. 
" Who can administer to a mind diseased }" It is painful to ob- 
serve the inconsistencies into which this able but unhappy man is 
continually betrayed by the conflict between his reason and his 
passions. While he expresses with a solemn earnestness his con- 
tempt for rank and fame, he unconsciously betrays how bitterly 
he feels the want of them ; and every complaining word is steeped 
in the blood of a wounded heart. But though he gives vent in 
the plainest terms to his jealousy of the modern nobility, and styles 
them " insolent parvenus," his notices of his more fortunate poe- 
tical contemporaries are always liberal and judicious. Even their 
popularity is accounted for in a manner that is equally just to 
them and to their admirers. It is only in his own particular 
case that his judgment fails him, when he unconsciously exagge- 
rates the value of his own poetry, and unjustly censures the critics 
or the public for their hostihty or indifference. He is a more 
daring egotist than Rousseau or Montaigne. He is sometimes, 
too, almost as eloquent as the former, and is always quite as ram- 
bling and irregular as the latter. He dwells, however, less upon 
little personal incidents than either. His adventures are only 
adventures of the heart and mind, that are laid open with an un- 
sparing hand, and all their sore places unblushingly displayed. 
Nothing but the most consummate vanity and the desperate ener- 
gies of a repressed ambition could have led any man to put forth 



294 SIR EGERTON BRYDGKS. 

such a fearful revelation*. The world, however, will be a gainer 
by the author's boldness. A more interesting though painful pic- 
ture — a more instructive lesson is rarely met with. The evil con- 
sequences of overrating our talents, and of encouraging a wild am- 
bition and a morbid sensibility are illustrated by this unfortunate 
painter of his own portrait, with a force and truth that cannot fail 
to leave a deep impression upon every thoughtful mind. 

Generally speaking, though there are many exceptions to the 
rule, egotism and vanity are unfavourable signs. It is the want 
of knowledge that makes us vain. The profoundest spirits are 
often the humblest. Newton compared himself to a child gather- 
ing pebbles on the sea-shore. The farther we advance, the longer 
appears our road ; for the more we see before us, 

" Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise." 
The perusal of superior books has not the same humbling effect as 
the meeting with superior men. A book is a kind of abstraction, 
but a personal contact with our betters occasions that strong sense 
of inferiority which is so painful to little minds and so useful to 
noble ones. The anxiety which some people evince to escape from 
such uncongenial company, and their bitter humihation and rest- 
less discontent until restored to their own little circle of admirers, 

* Sir Egerton Brydges is a very reserved man in society. It is strange how 
easily men who are shy in private, run into a bold egotism in public. They who 
are much in the habit of addressing the public acquire a confidence of success, 
and fall into a degree of familiarity with their thousands of unseen and unknowu 
readers, that is quite unaccountable to those who have confined themselves to 
the intercourse of private life. It is like uttering impudent or foolish thini;s in 
a dark room. No rebuking eye kindles a painful blush upon the speaker's 
cheek. The author and the public do not meet face to face. The former sends 
out his oracles or his egotisms from the concealment of his quiet study. The 
late William Hazlitt was a striking illustration of the strange contrast which a 
person may present between his public and his private manners. He was a 
bold and egotistical author, but a shy man. In addressing the whole world, he 
was often daring and dogmatical ; but in a small private company, if any stran- 
gers were present, he could scarcely muster up sutficient courage to go through 
the ordinary ceremonies of social intercourse. 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 295 

is an illustration of this remark. A library is not so great a 
check on our self- approbation, though adorned even with a Milton 
and a Shakspeare ! In minds, indeed, duly chastened and sub- 
dued by extensive study, a work of true genius will always excite 
a reverent admiration ; but I am now alluding to its effects on those 
writers and readers who possess but a superficial knowledge of 
literature and life. They who are apt to talk flippantly and even 
to think lightly of books, are brought to their own level in the 
presence of living genius. 

Sir Egerton Brydges had unfortunately the temperament of 
genius without its power, and for the want of that self-knowledge 
without which we cannot turn the talents and acquirements we 
may possess to any real advantage, he has passed a life of misery 
and discontent. He has inherited an ample fortune, he is the 
representative of one of the highest and most ancient families in 
the kingdom, his powers of mind and his literary accomplishments 
are of no ordinary character, (though immeasurably overrated by 
himself,) and he has had books and leisure at his command ; yet 
with all these means and appliances he has done but little for his 
fame, and still less for his happiness. If he had devoted his whole 
energies to some single and noble purpose, instead of dissipating 
his time and talents on unconnected and comparatively trifling 
objects, he might have won to himself a far higher name in lite- 
rature than he has yet acquired. Though he has poetical feelings, 
he is not a poet, and has fallen into the too common mistake of 
confounding a mere attachment for the Muses with an actual in- 
spiration. But he who loves poetry is not necessarily a poet, any 
more than a lover of music is necessarily a musician. This was 
the grand error of his literary life. It is his failure as a poet that 
has poisoned all his pleasures. If he could have forsworn verse, 
and have devoted himself exclusively to any other department of 
literature, he would have saved himself many bitter disappoint- 
ments, and have occupied a more respectable station among his 



296 SIR egehton brydges. 

literary contemporaries. His works are occasionally characterised 
by such ingenious thoughts, such noble feehngs, and such a fervid 
eloquence, that it is impossible to resist the impression that he 
was meant for higher tasks than he has yet attempted. His fai- 
lures, however, are to be attributed to very different causes 
from those assigned by himself. His want of success was not 
owing to the " want of cheers," as he quaintly expresses it ; but to 
the self-mistake already alluded to, and to the irregularity and 
capriciousness of his literary labours. It was not Sir Egerton 
Brydges in his personal character, but in his character as an author, 
that the public ever thought of him at all ; and it is a great error 
to suppose that they are prejudiced judges of literary merit. If he 
had written any thing really worthy of general notice, he would 
undoubtedly have obtained it. Genius has no occasion to be mute 
and inglorious in these times. A follower of tlie Muses has now 
a much greater chance of over-praise than unjust censure. 

Sir Egerton Brydges " lisped in numbers." It is a pity that his 
mind took this turn so eai-ly. It were to be wished that young 
students would direct their attention more frequently to prose, 
though it is natural enough that they should take in the first in- 
stance to a kind of composition apparently so easy, though in re- 
ality so difficult. Their ears are captivated with the sweet sound of 
verse, and their minds are not always sufficiently critical to distin- 
guish words from sense — the leaves from the fruit. Even persons 
of tolerable sagacity, and who can observe the shallowness of a 
florid and feeble prose style, are often found to surrender judg- 
ment hoodwinked in reading verse, and especially if it be their own. 
It is astonishing what mere inanities have satisfied the self-con- 
ceit of writers of verse, who would have been heartily ashamed of 
the same emptiness in their prose. So long as the words run 
smoothly and the rhymes are correct, there is something like an 
air of completeness and a vague elevation in metrical composition 
that are exceedingly delusive. There are certain words also the 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 297 

common property of verse-writers, that often suggest poetical 
associations for which the reader is more indebted to his own 
imagination than to the genius of the author. These pretty external 
ornaments are often worn by a poetaster who is as ignorant of the 
eflect he produces as the unconscious fish that makes its gold and 
silver scales to glitter in the sunny water. It is the case with 
which vulgar writers can put on the costume of the Muse that 
has brought her spirit into contempt, amongst men who do not 
sufficiently discriminate between harmonious and pretty verse and 
genuine poetry. Thus Jeremy Bcntham, perceiving how easy it 
is for people to put common thoughts into correct rhyme, and of 
what miserable stuff the great mass of verse generally consists, 
jumped at once to the conclusion, that poetry was a trifling amuse- 
ment, unfit for grown men, and less useful than the game of push- 
pin ! He forgot Homer and Shakspeare and Dante and Milton, 
and recollected only the small fry of small poetasters. But to 
judge fairly of an art we should not estimate its claims by an 
exclusive reference to the works of its unsuccessful votaries. 
The rarity of great poets only proves the difficulty and digni- 
ty of their art, — the same also is proved by the glaring ill 
success of the countless host of verse-writers, who might have 
attained to perfection in any other human accomplishment with 
the same zeal and labour. Hayley, a learned, elegant and sen- 
sible person, spent nearly half a centur}^ in the study and practice 
of poetry ; but amongst his thousands of correct and harmonious 
verses he has not left us a single line that is breathed upon by 
the Muse. Nature had denied him that peculiar quality without 
which no man can produce genuine poetry, however great may 
be his learning, his industry, his zeal, or his general intellectual 
power. We should always, therefore, feel some hesitation in en- 
couraging young persons to write verse. It is not to be denied that 
the practice of versifying is an elegant amusement, and well calcu- 
lated to familiarize a young student with the language in which he 
2 a 



298 SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 

writes ; but there is the serious danger that a fatal facihty in the 
production of verse may lead to a long and unrequited courtship 
of the Muse, and withhold a man from pursuits that are more 
profitable and better adapted to his capacity. Nothing is more 
unfortunate or more to be lamented than such a misdirection of 
intellect and labour. How many individuals are there who, though 
contemptible as poets, might have risen to distinction in almost 
any other walk of life ! The world is too apt to judge decidedly 
of a man's general powers by his failure in some particular de- 
partment of human knowledge, without a due consideration of 
his capacity for other studies. Thus a man who has written bad 
poetry is thought unfit for every thing, and has sunk his reputation 
for ever. He cannot hope to be regarded as an able man, until 
people forget that he has committed the sin of rhyme ; and this 
oblivion he is generally the last to desire or to anticipate. Men 
who are in reality greatly his inferiors, but who have been more 
fortunate in hitting upon a congenial and profitable pursuit in 
life, seem privileged to speak of him with a mixture of pity and 
contempt. The style in which the most vulgar persons speak of 
all authors who are not in the very highest rank is justly rebuked 
in a little collection of " Essays from the French of the Abbot 
Trublet," a book that well rewards perusal. In the course of 
some remarks on criticism, this French Essayist thus alludes to 
the despisers of the lesser literati. 

" The middling sort of writers are common enough in the world of au- 
thors; hut men capable of making middlivg writers are very scarce amons 
men in general; even among those who think they have pretensions to 
genius and learning. 

" A writer of this sort is a person of but moderate genius, compared 
•with men of the first rank ; but is often a considerable one, compared with 
the greatest part of those that take upon them to judge him wiii) so much 
pride and severity. INIetliinks, I could say to this insolent race of men ; 
ah! gentlemen, let me beseech you, do but think of the mischief you do 
yourselves, by this imperious manner of criticism: these contemptuous 
airs : this magisterial tone in which you deliver yourselves ! The persons 
you set so low are infinitely your superiors.'' 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 299 

Sir Egerton commends his own sonnets for their severe sira- 
phcity of style, and flatters himself that in this respect he has 
rightly followed the example of Milton. Milton's style is in keep- 
ing with his thoughts. An ornate and efl^eminate phraseology 
would have heen almost as unsuited to the energy and grandeur 
of that mighty poet as to the Holy Scriptures, the suhlimity of 
which would be greatly injured by the introduction of flowery 
epithets and elaborate metaphors from the store-house of modern 
poetiy. It is doubtful whether the plain language of Milton's son- 
nets would ever be tolerated in the productions of a feebler writer. 
The simplicity of Milton's style is grand, because it is associated with 
gigantic power. Poets should choose a subject and a style adapted 
to their genius. If Moore were to throw away his gems and 
flowers, and attempt the severer manner of Milton, perhaps his 
verses would be as worthless as they are now delightful. The 
nakedness of Milton's Muse is the nakedness of a classical statue. 

The sonnets of Sir Egerton Brydges (with one exception) 
are cold and unpoetical. The thoughts are as prosaic as the 
style. His sonnet entitled " Echo and Silence" is so immeasura- 
bly superior to all the rest, that it is a proof how much reliance is 
placed upon his honor that people take his word for it when he 
claims it as his own. It was for some time attributed to 
Henry Brooke (author of Gustavus Vasa) until in 182.5, Sir Eger- 
ton inserted in it his Recollections of Foreign Travel. Southey has 
said that he knows not any poem in any language more beauti- 
fully imaginative. If, as Dr. Johnson said of Gray, in reference 
to his Elegy, the author had often written thus, it would have 
been vain to blame and useless to praise him. 

ECHO AND SILENCE. 

In eddying course when leaves began to fly, 

And Autumn in her lap the store to strew, 

As mid wild scenes I chanced the Muse to woo 

Through glens untrod and woods that frowned on high, 

2 Q 2 



300 SIR KGERTON BRT00E8. 

Two sleeping n)rn|)hs with wonder mute I spy ; 

And, lo, she's gone ! — In robe of dark green hue, 

'Twas Echo from her sister Silence flew, 

For quick the hunter's horn resounded to the sky ! 

In shade affrighted Silence melts away. 

Not so her sister. — Hark ! for onward still 

With fixr-lieard step slie takes her listening way, 

Bounding from rock to rock, and hill to hill. 

Ah, mark tlie merry maid in mockful play 

With thousand mimic tones the laughing forest fill ! 

The classical and accomplished Archdeacon Wrangham has 
honored this sonnet with a Latin translation. The following re- 
flections on his birth-day, may be given as a fair specimen of Sir 
Egerton's general style ; and I select this sonnet, because it is im- 
mediately followed in his auto-biography by the writer's remark, 
that he had studiously attempted to imitate the simplicity of Mil- 
ton, and had adopted the same stern system of the rejection of 
flowery language. 

Sonnet. — ZOth November. 

This thy last day, dark month, to me is dear, 

For tliis first sasv mine infant eyes unbound ; 

Now two-and-twenty years have hastened round, 

Yet from the bud no ripened fruits appear ! 

My drooping spirits at the thought to cheer, 

By my fond friends the jovial bowl is crowned, 

While sad I sit, my eyes upon the ground. 

And scarce refrain to drop the silent tear ! 

Yet, O beloved Muse ! if in me glow 

Ambition for false fame, the thirst abate ; 

Teach me for fields and flocks mankind to know. 

And ope my eyes to all that's truly great ; 

To view the world unmasked on me bestow, 

And knaves and fools to scorn, howe'er adorned by state ! 

The sonnet previously quoted (Echo and Silence) is entitled to 
all the praise it has obtained. It is truly poetical. But as the 
author never approached its excellence on any other occasion, his 
readers are compelled to conclude that it was suggested by one of 



SIR EGERTON BRYDGES. 301 

tlaose sudden flashes of inspiration which once or twice in the 
course of a man's whole life may enable him, if I may use a common 
expression, to surpass himself. If the poem had been a longer one, 
this hypothesis would be quite unfair, because casual felicities of 
this nature will not give life and animation to a sustained effort, 
nor even to a succession of shorter pieces. Sir Egerton has been 
writing sonnets nearly all his life, but the Muse, with this one 
exception, has always frowned upon his best endeavours. 

Turning, however, from the verse of this writer to his prose, 
we are presented with numerous evidences of great natural talent 
and of very elegant and extensive acquirements. I repeat my opi- 
nion, that if he had concentrated his powers upon some worthy 
undertaking, he would have been far better known and more high- 
ly esteemed as a literary man than he now is, though he has 
been labouring in the fields of literature, capriciously and irregu- 
larly, for so long a period. 

Sir Egerton Brydges is now in his seventy-fifth year, and it is 
pleasing to find a literary man at his time of life writing with such 
unabated vigour, animation, and enthusiasm. If he has the 
garrulity of age, he has not its feebleness. He has not yet reach- 
ed, and I hope he never will reach, the last of the Seven Ages*. 



• Since the first edition of tliis book Sir Egeiton Brydges has paid the debt 
of nature. 



[ 302 ] 



STANZAS. 

ON THE DEATH OF A GENERAL OFFICER IN INDIA. 

The years of vanished life 

The gun's loud voice hath told — 

The breast that dared the battle-strife 
Is motionless and cold ! 

The muffled drum's dull moan, 

Sad requiem of the brave. 
Awoke the deep responsive groan 

Above that warrior's grave. 

He lies on his dark bed. 

With cold unconscious brow ; 
For sleep's eternal spell is spread 

Around his pillow now. 

Behold the crimson sky. 

And mark yon setting sun ; 
For, like that orb, once bright on high. 

Was he whose race is run ! 

A few short moments' flight 

Hath wildly changed his doom ; 

The worm shall be his mate to-night — 
His home, the cheerless tomb ! 



SONNET THE SUTTEK. 30J: 

The midnight blast shall howl — 

The dews his cold limbs steep — 
The jackal shriek, the wild dog giowl — ■ 

Nor wake his dreamless sleep ! 

Yet vain the dirge of woe. 

Where mortal relics rest, — 
His earth-freed spirit triumphs now, 

In regions of the blest ! 



SONNET— THE SUTTEE. 

Her last fond wishes breathed, a farewell smile 

Is lingering on the calm unclouded brow 

Of yon deluded victim. Firmly now 
She mounts, with dauntless mien, the funeral pile 
Where lies her earthly lord. Tlie Brahmin's guile 

Hath wrought its will — fraternal hands bestow 

The quick death-flame — the crackling embers glow- 
And flakes of hideous smoke the skies defile ! 

The ruthless throng their ready aid supply. 
And pour the kindling oil. The stunning sound 

Of dissonant drums — the priest's exulting cry — 
The failing martyr's pleading voice have drowned ; 
While fiercely-burning rafters fall around. 

And shroud her frame from horror's straining eye ! 



[ 304 



STANZAS. 

I. 

The brighter hours of Hfe are past, 

The sun of hope is set : 
Though its hngeinng beam as it glowed its last 

Woke a tear of too fond regret ; 
It hath left a solemn twilight sadness, 
I would not change for the glare of gladness. 

II. 
I've known the weary weight of grief. 

The throb of wild despair ; 
Though hushed is the tone that would breathe rehef. 

And the sigh that my pang would share — 
Though the breast is cold — the voice departed — 
They haunt the dreams of the lonely-hearted. 

III. 
I linger in the stranger's land — 

I share the stranger's bowl — 
Yet the thought of his own dear native laud 

Is a star to the wanderer's soul ; 
And of Memory's chain — Love's farewell token — 
Each hallowed link hath remained unbroken. 



[ 305 ] 



ON THE ART OF READING. 



I WAS lately dipping into " A Catalogue of Five Hundred cele- 
brated Living Authors of Great Britain*," published in 1788, and 
on coming to the article on Anna Seward, was struck with the 
singularity of one of the points of commendation. She is de- 
scribed as " a lady of considerable accomplishments, beautiful in 
her person, lively and entertaining in her conversation, and cele- 
brated for her great excellence in the art of reading." The mention 
of Miss Seward's poetry follows as a secondary matter ; and indeed 
if she had not read poetry better than she wrote it, she would 
scarcely have merited such particular praise. Not that her poetry 
was invariably bad. Some of her sonnets have both beauty of 
thought and harmony of metre, though I fear that the world will 
" willingly let them die." In fact they are almost forgotten 
already. There are lines in them, however, that deserve to live. 
The following is an example. It finely represents the heat and 
stillness of a summer noon. 

" And sultry silence brooded o'er the hills." 

The following Stanza on the dog in a wild state, is taken from 
her poem on the " Future Existence of Brutes." 

" When unattached, and yet to man vuiknown, 
Wolfish and wild, tlie wilderness he roves, 
Bays with his horrid howl, the silent moon, 
And stalks the terror of the desert groves.'' 

The following couplet is pretty and picturesque : — 

" And tossing the green sea-weed o'er and o'er 
Creeps the huslied billow on the shelly siiore.'' 



* I have a vague recollection that Lord Byron once noticed and laughed at 
this book, being much amused at the notion of there being at any time in one 
country 500 celebrated living writers. 

2 R 



306 ON THK ART OF RKADINO. 

Her description of a winter morning is extremely true. 

"I love to rise ere gleams the tardy litrlit, 
Winter's pale dawn : — and as warm fires illume 
And cheerful tapers shine around the room, 
Through misty windows bend my musing sight, 
Where, round the dusky lawn, the mansions white, 
With shutters closed, peer faintly through the eloom. 
That slow recedes, while yon gray spires assume. 
Rising from their dark pile, an added height 
By indistinctness given." 

Miss Seward's poetry is sometimes fliorid and affected, and a 
great deal more attention seems paid to the expression and the 
sound than to the sentiments. She was admired, however, as a 
poetess and esteemed as a friend by Darwin and Hayley, and even 
Sir Walter Scott and the learned Dr. Parr. Sir Egerton Brydges 
fancies that the hand of Darwin is to be traced in many of her 
early poems. I think not. She was too self-satisfied to receive 
such assistance. The querulous and passionate strain of her 
correspondence with Henry Hardinge, who occasionally ventured 
to sujigest improvements in her verses and to differ with her on 
certain points of poetical criticism, shows that she was not easily 
led by the advice or influenced by the judgment of others. Darwin, 
in fact, is more indebted to her than she was to him, for he is known 
to have used some lines of her composition as the introduction 
to bis " Botanic Garden," and that without any acknowledgment. 

As to Miss Seward's posthumous letters, which in obedience to 
her last will were edited by Sir Walter Scott, they are certainly the 
most artificial compositions of the kind in the English language, 
though they are at the same time amongst the most amusing, 
on account of their poetical criticisms and their literary anecdotes. 

Nothing, however, can be more ludicrous than her extravagant 
admiration of the circle of Lilliputian poets, by whom she was sur- 
rounded. I do not allude to Hayley and Darwin, for though now 
out of fashion they were really eminent men in their day ; but to 



ON THE ART OF READING. 307 

that little clan of versifiers whose very names are now forgotten, 
though their productions, according to Anna's friendly predictions, 
were to last with the language. It was because Hardinge would 
not admire these sprats of Helicon that she was so exasperated at 
what she called his want of candour. What most surprises us, 
in the midst of her violent eulogies, is the quickness and accuracv 
of her microscopic eye in picking out the minutest beauties of 
these small writers. It is true that she always exaggerates the 
value of her discoveries to a most unconscionable extent ; but 
she exhibits at the same time the nicest judgment in selection. 
If a critic of the severest taste were compelled to praise the same 
vn-iters, he would inevitably fix upon the same passages for com- 
mendation. This seems to show extreme partiality rather than a 
want of critical acumen. Many of her remarks upon Milton are 
exceedingly judicious, and she enthusiastically maintained his 
claim to be considered a richly harmonious poet, when it was the 
fashion to pronounce his versification harsh and unpleasing. 

Miss Seward's success as a reader argues her possession oi a 
great delicacy of ear and quickness of apprehension, for without 
these qualities it is impossible she could have recited Shakspeare 
and Milton with even tolerable effect. If her reputation as a reader 
was well founded, and there is no reason to doubt that it was so, 
we need not wonder at the earnest entreaties of her friends (which 
she mentions in her letters) for the repeated exercise of her talent 
for recitation ; for nothing is more delightful than to hear fine 
poetry delivered by a reader perfectly equal to the task. 

It is assumed that poets, from their peculiar sensibility to the 
beauties of verse and their more intimate familiarity with its har- 
monies, are better readers of poetry than other men. This is 
generally the case, but not always. A man may write very harmoni- 
ous verses, and yet be quite unable to do them justice by an accu- 
rate and pleasing recitation. Goldsmith once remarked in com- 
pany, that poets were more likely to read verses well than other 
2 R 2 



308 ON THE ART OF UKADING. 

men ; but when he was called on to illustrate his remark by his 
own performance, he repeated a stanza of a ballad with such false 
emphasis that he was condemned by all present. 

Davies, in his life of Garrick, tells us, that when Glover read 
his Boadicea to the actors, his voice was so harsh, and his elocu- 
tion so disagreeable, that he disgusted his auditors. Garrick 
politely offered to read it for him ; but Glover declined the fa- 
vour, and appeared to think that he acquitted himself extremely 
well*. Corneille, Dryden, Addison, Akenside and Thomson were 
wretched readers. Of the latter, Dr. Johnson remarks, that 
" among his peculiarities was a very unskilful and inarticulate 
manner of pronouncing any lofty or solemn composition. He 
was once reading to Doddington, who being himself a reader 
eminently elegant, was so much provoked by his odd utter- 
ance, that he snatched the paper from his hands, and told him 

* Garrick's own recitation, however, was not perfect, and Dr. Johnson used to 
tell him that he often mistook the emphatic word in a sentence. There was 3. 
line in Hamlet, the emphases of which he entirely misunderstood : 
I will speak daggers, but use none. 

Which he read : 

I will speak daggers, but use none. 

When Dr. .Tohnson requested him to read the Seventh Commandment, 
Garrick pronounced it, " Thou s/iait not commit adultery." " You are wrong," 
said the Doctor, " it is a negative precept, and ought to be pronounced, ' Thou 
shalt not commit adultery.' " But Johnson himself was in error here, for the 
proper emphasis is : " Thou shalt not commit adultery ;" for the command is not 
in opposition to a contrary command, which would have required the emphasis 
on the word not alone. 

Dr. Taylor told Bosvvell another anecdote of Dr. Johnson's triumphing over 
his old pupil. Garrick and GifFard (also an actor) were called on to repeat the 
Winth Commandment: " Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neigh- 
bour." Both tried it and both mistook the emphasis, which Johnson explained 
was on the not and false icitness. Sheridan in his Lectures on the Art of Reading 
places the emphasis wholly on the word false ; but neither he nor Joiinson, 1 
think, are quite right, because they both omit some emphases that are obviously 
required. Besides the emphasis on the word not, there should be an equal 
emphasis on the words shalt not and false witness : Thou shalt not bear false 
witness against thy neighbour. There is no direct opposition understood that 
would require an exclusive emphasis on not or false. Such an emphasis would 
not be less absurd than an emphasis on the word no in the Sixth Commandment ; 
" Thou shalt commit no murder, " instead of" Thou shalt commit no murder." 



ON THE ART OF READING. 309 

that he did not understand his own verses." Dr. Johnson him- 
self was an indifferent reader. His recitation is said to have 
been at once monotonous and violent. We learn from Miss 
Seward that Walter Scott's reading was equally imperfect* : 
though Scott has praised hers very handsomely. " The tone of 
her voice," he says, " was melodious, guided by excellent taste, 
and well suited to reading and recitation, in which she willingly 
exercised it." Southey also speaks in high terms of her mode of 
reading. She tells Cary (the Translator of Dante) that he is al- 
most the only poet she is acquainted with whose reading is en- 
tirely just to his Muse. 

Byron is said to have read with feeling, but to have had a 
" Northumbrian burr in his speech." Campbell reads very like a 
Methodist parson. His matter, and the choice of his expressions, 
in a formal speech, are always worthy of the poet and the patriot ; 
but his manner is a sad disappointment to his admirers. Those 
who are familiar with him as a poet, and have felt the magic of 
his fine eye and his sweet though somewhat restrained smile, 
could not easily conceive that he would injure the effect of 
noble sentiments by such an extremely disagreeable delivery. 

Amongst the clergy of the Church of England there are many 
correct and impressive readers of the Scriptures ; but when they 
descend from the pulpit they are too apt to bring its atmo- 
sphere along with them, and to turn a poem into a sermon. The 
Dissenters also, notwithstanding the many eloquent men amongst 
them, are generally still greater sinners in this respect, and in 
the most cheerful drawing-room make us fancy ourselves in a 
conventicle. There is a monotonous whine in their recitation of 
poetry that is perfectly intolerable. They regularly raise the voice 



• Lockhart gives a very different account of Scott's mode of reading. " He 
read aloud high poetry with far greater simplicity, depth and effect than any 
other man 1 ever heard; and in Macbeth or Julius Ca;sar, or the like, I doubt 
if Kemble could have been more impressive."— LocA/iart's Life of Scott, 



310 ON THE ART OF READING. 

at the l)eginning of every line, and drop it into inaudible whispers 
at the close. 

There are perhaps a greater number of good readers amongst 
actors than in any other profession. Mrs. Siddons used to be in- 
vited to read Shakspeare at Court*. Perhaps histrionic orators 
do not read other kinds of poetry so well as they read the Drama. 
They are too much inclined to act. Quin, however, was an 
exception. He is said to have read Milton with " marvellous 
propriety." Joseph Fawcett also was a beautiful general reader. 
Hazlitt tells us that his repeating some parts of Comus with 
his fine, deep, mellow-toned voice, particularly the lines, " I 
have oft heard ray mother Circe, with the Syrens three," &c. and 
the enthusiatic comments he made afterwards, were a treat to 
the ear and to the soul. Henderson was a splendid reader ; 
according to the testimony of Boaden his reading was superior 
to that of Kemble or Mrs. Siddons. 

A good reader may even blind us to the faults of an author by 
the charm of his delivery. Spence, on the authority of Richardson, 
tells us that " Mr. Hooke read some speeches of his Roman His- 
tory to the Speaker Onslow (who piqued himself upon his own 
reading), and begged him to give his opinion of the work : the 
Speaker answered in a passion, he could not tell what to think of 
it ; it might be nonsense for aught he knew ; for that his man- 
ner of reading: had bewitched him." 



* After Mrs. Siddons had retired from the stage, she gave public readings of 
poetry at the Argyle Rooms in London. It was observed that her reading of 
Shakspeare was far more effective than her reading of JMilton. Mr. Campbell 
attributes this to the supposed circumstance that the poetry of Milton is too 
spiritual to be susceptible of any improvement from elocution. I confess that I 
do not agree with him. The glorious music of IMilton must be doubly delight- 
ful when worthily expressed by that diviuest of all instruments — the human 
voice. In the case of Mrs. Siddons, we are to recollect that that Queen of Ac- 
tresses was on her own strong ground in dramatic poetry, and that the sympathies 
and associations of the audience were naturally most at her command, when she 
was uttering the words of Shakspeare. 



ON THE ART OF READING. 311 

It is said that Sir James Mackintosh was a fine reader ; though 
from the harshness of his voice, I should not have supposed it. A 
respected friend of mine tells me that one day in a large party at 
Hvdrabad, on some person depreciating Cowley, Sir James took 
down the book from a shelf in the room, and saying that he was 
sure the gentleman could not have sufficiently studied that poet, 
he read the " Chroniclie" in a style that enchanted his audience. 
Perhaps his truth of emphasis and feeling overcame the disad- 
vantage of a bad voice. 

Though good poets are not necessarily good readers of verse, 
and I have given the names of several who illustrate the observa- 
tion, I still think that the best readers amongst the poets must 
recite their own compositions or those of their brethren with a 
peculiar gusto and a magical effect. It is said that Virgil, Racine, 
and Boileau were admii'able readers. Nat Lee was particu- 
larly distinguished for the beauty of his recitation. " He was so 
pathetic a reader of his own scenes," says Gibber, " that while he 
was reading to Major Mohun at a rehearsal, Mohun, in the warmth 
of his admiration, threw down his part, and said, ' unless I were 
able to play it as well as you read it, to what purpose should I 
undertake it ?' " 

Mr. De Quincy (the Opium Eater) gives an interesting account 
of Charles Lamb as a reader ; and in speaking of his own habits, 
says, that at one period during illness he could not read to him- 
self with any pleasure, yet that he sometimes read aloud for the 
pleasure of others, for reading was an accomplishment of his, " al- 
most the only one he possessed," and if he was proud of any thing 
it was of this, because he had observed that no accomplishment 
was so rare. He describes Charles Lamb as a delightful reader 
of verse, though his style of recitation wanted force, and was 
better suited to passages of quiet or solemn movement than to 
those of tumultuous passion. But the management of his pauses, 
it is added, was judicious, his enunciation distinct, his tones me- 



312 ON THE ART OF READING. 

lodious, and his cadences well executed. This praise may excite 
some surprise, because it has been said that Lamb stammered even 
more in reading than in speaking. Amongst the best readers of 
modern times was Dr. Sayers, of whom William Taylor of Nor- 
wich has written such an affectionate and interesting biography. 
" Throughout life," says his biographer, " he was one of the finest 
readers ever heard ; expression of every kind was at his command ; 
his own emotion was always transitive, yet given with that 
subdued grace which is the expedient distinction between lecture 
and declamation." Mr. Polwhele (in his Traditions and Recol- 
lections) records that Dr. Wolcot (Peter Pindar) read poetry 
extremely well. He remembers the Doctor's reading some hnes 
" with a voice so plaintively soft, so musical in its cadences, that 
his whole soul should seem to have been attuned to sensibihty and 
virtue. But what a medley is man of good and evil !" 

Wordsworth's reading of his own poetry is described by Hazlitt 
as particularly imposing. " In his favorite passages his eye beams 
with preternatural lustre, and the meaning labours slowly up from 
his swelling breast." Mrs. Hemans, in a letter to a friend, also 
gives a pleasing account of Wordsworth's style of recitation. " His 
reading is very peculiar, but, to my ear, dehghtful ; slow, solemn, 
earnest in expression, more than any I have ever heard ; when he 
reads or recites in the open air, his deep and rich tones seem to 
proceed from a spirit-voice, and to belong to the religion of the 
place ; they harmonize so fitly with the thrilling tones of woods 
and waterfalls." Coleridge was also a fine reader. The reporter 
of the poet's Table Talk mentions that upon his telling him, that 
he did not very well recollect the Prothalamion of Spenser, " Then 
I must read you a bit of it," said Coleridge, and fetching the book 
from the next room, he recited the whole of it in his finest manner. 
" I particularly bear in mind," continues the reporter (the poet's 
relative), "the sensible diversity of tone and rhythm with which 
he gave the concluding hne of each of the strophes of the poem : 



ON THE ART OF READING. 313 

Sweet Thames, run softly 'till I end my song. 
Talfourd, in his life of Lamb, tells us that Coleridge was some- 
times induced to recite portions of " Christabel," " then en- 
shrined in manuscript from eyes profane ;" and that he gave 
" a bewitching effect to its wizard lines." " But more peculiarly- 
beautiful than this," continues Talfourd, " was his recitation of 
Kubla-Khan. As he repeated the passage — 

A damsel with a dulcimer 
In a vision once I saw : 
It was an Abyssinian maid, 
And on her dulcimer she play'd 
Singing of Mount Abora — 

his voice seemed to mount and melt into air as the images grew 
more visionary, and the suggested associations more remote." 

Very little attention is paid at the generality of schools to ac- 
curacy and variety of emphasis and cadence. The consequence is 
that few persons, even amongst those who have received what is 
called an elegant education, are able to read either prose or verse 
with propriety and effect. Most readers hurry over the finest prose 
composition like a paragraph in a newspaper, as if they had no 
time to spare ; or turn poetry into prose by a cold and careless 
intonation, or by harsh and erroneous accents. Faults in prose- 
reading, however, though more easily avoided, are far less dis- 
gusting than in the recitation of verse. Even so early as the 
time of Ehzabeth, the poets used to complain of the manner in 
which their works were recited. Beaumont, in his lines to Fletcher 
on the failure of his " Faithful Shepherd," speaks with impatient 
contempt of bad readers of verse : 

" Of those— 
Whose very reading makes verse senseless prose." 

The first and most important requisite for excellence in reading, 

is a thorough comprehension of the author's meaning ; for unless 

we fully apprehend his sentiment or intention, it is impossible to 

give the right tone and cadence. The slightest error in these 

2 s 



314 ON THE ART OK READING. 

respects has such a serious effect, that a writer is quite at the 
mercy of his reader. A greater punishment to a poet could hardly 
be conceived than that of making him listen to his own composi- 
tions inaccurately or untastefully recited*. I have never met 
with more than two or three individuals in private life who could 
read an ode or an elegy in a style that was not absolutely offensive. 

The two most common though opposite faults in the reading of 
verse are a disregard of those fine harmonies which distinguish 
verse from prose, and a whine or sing-song. These are the 
Scylla and Charybdis of recitation. To avoid such serious dangers 
requires the nicest art — the utmost delicacy of taste. The reader 
who can succeed in this difficult task, and keep precisely the right 
tone, accent, and emphasis, and preserve at the same time an air 
of ease and freedom in the management of his voice, must be no 
ordinary person. Such excellence is not a mere mechanical ac- 
complishment. It not only requires something of the perseve- 
rance of a Demosthenes, but many personal and intellectual 
qualities of a rare and brilliant order. 

The rules for reading verse are so unsettled, that many points 
of considerable importance must be left entirely to the taste and 
feehng of the reciter. It is not, for instance, yet agreed amongst 
the teachers of elocution, whether or not a slight pause should be 
made at the end of every line of verse just sufficient to mark its 
limits. Dr. Lowth, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Blair and 
Mr. Sheridan are in favour of this pause ; Walker and others 
are against it. I am inclined to agree with the former, that 

* " I laugh heartily, "says Owen Feltham (in his Resolves), " at Philoxenus's 
jest, who passing by and hearing some masons mis-sensing his lines, (with their 
ignorant sawing of them,) falls to breaking amain. They ask the cause, and he 
replies, they spoil his work, and he theirs. Certainly a worthy poet is so far from 
being a fool, that there is some wit required in him that shall be able to read him 
well ; and without the true accent, numbered poetry does lose of the gloss. It 
■was a speech becoming an able poet of our own, when a lord read his verses 
crookedly, and he beseeched his lordship not to murder him in his own lines, 
' He that speaks false Latin breaks Priscian's head ; but he that repeats a verse 
ill puts Homer out of joint.' " 



ON THE ART OF READING. 315 

there ought to be a very shght, and except to a fine ear, a 
scarcely perceptible pause of suspension at the end of every line, 
whether of rhymed or blank verse ; but it should seem, if I may 
say so, more like a link than a break in the chain of harmony. 

If any one is asked a second time to read aloud by any number 
of persons of good taste whom he has no reason to suppose are 
inclined to flatter him, he may congratulate himself upon the pos- 
session of a very rare and delightful accomplishment. For my 
own part I repeat, that I have heard very few persons in private life 
attempt to read poetry aloud who did not either irritate their audi- 
tors or lull them into an untimely slumber, I have met with many 
who could write good poetry, but very few who could read it pro- 
perly. They who have been present at poetical readings in private 
parties know what a wearisome trial of courtesy it is to keep up 
an air of attention. The eyes begin to close in spite of one's polite- 
ness, and to make those " pictures when they're shut" of which 
Coleridge speaks ; while like the waves on the sea-shore as de- 
scribed by Shelley, the reader's voice breathes over the slumbering 
brain a dull monotony. That Anna Seward deserved her reputa- 
tion as a fine reader is sufficiently evident from the circumstance 
of her having been so frequently solicited to read Shakspeare 
aloud to different companies, that at last the task was beyond her 
strength. One evening, from reading all the principal scenes in 
Macbeth, she found herself so much injured that as she assured 
her friends, she never breathed freely afterwards. 

Mr. Southey in the preface to his Madoc, in the new edition of 
his poems, has made the following complimentary mention of Miss 
Seward, with which I shall conclude the present article : — " Sir 
Walter Scott has estimated with characteristic skill Miss Seward's 
powers of criticism and her strong prepossessions on literary points. 
And believing that the more she was known the more she would 
have been esteemed and admired, I bear a willing testimony to her 
accomplishments and her genius, to her generous disposition, her 
frankness, her sincerity and warmth of heart." 
2 s 2 



[ 316 ] 



SPRING. 
The fresh and joyous Spring at length is seen, 
And all things breathe of bliss. The youthful year 
Hath burst the barriers time and tempest rear ; 
And clothed in vernal beauty, smiles serene 
The quick -reviving earth. Though long hath been 
The trance of Nature on the naked bier 
"Where ruthless Winter mocked her slumbers drear. 
And rent with icy hand her robes of green. 
At last 'tis brightly broken ! Glossy trees. 
Resplendent meads and variegated flowers. 
Gleam in the sun, and tremble in the breeze ! 
And now with dreaming eye the poet sees 
Fair shapes of pleasure haunt romantic bowers, 
And laughing streamlets chase the flying hours ! 



SONNET— TO HEALTH. 
Oh ! I have sought thee over hill and plain, 
In life's bright morn, with Temperance my guide. 
And Hope and laughing Pleasure at my side, 
Rose-cheeked Hygeia ! And not all in vain 
I wandered then o'er Nature's sweet domain. 
For we have met where timid Dryads hide. 
And where proud rivers in their glory glide 
Beneath the summer sun. But care and pain 
Have bound me now with adamantine chain ; 
Dark thoughts and images of death deride 
Mv dearest dreams, my passions and my pride ; 
And, oh ! no more, (so ruthless Fates ordain,) 
These languid limbs the cheerful haunts shall gain. 
Where thou and rural happiness abide ! 



[ 317 ] 



ON PROSE MEMORANDA FOR POETICAL 
COMPOSITION. 



Lord Byron made frequent poetical use of his own journals 
and letters. He sometimes even repeated the same thought 
in several different prose writings, and then finally enshrined 
it in immortal verse. In a letter to Mr. Murray, dated Dio- 
dati, Sept. 29, 1816, he says, " We have been to the Grindel- 
wald, and the Jungfraw, and stood on the summit of the 
Wengen Alp, and seen torrents of nine hundred feet in fall, and 
glaciers of all dimensions : we have heard shepherds' pipes and 
avalanches, and looked on the clouds foaming up from the valley 
below us, like the spray of the ocean of hell." In his journal, there 
is the following similar passage ; — " Heard the avalanches falling 
every five minutes nearly. From whence we stood, on the Wengen 
Alp, we had aU these in view on one side ; on the other, the clouds 
rose from the opposite valley, curling up perpendicular precipices 
like the foam from the ocean of hell. It was white and sulphury." 
These descriptions were at last reproduced in Manfred. 

" Ye avalanches, 



I hear ye momentli/ above, beneath 

Crash with a frequent conflict. 

Tlie mists boil up around the glaciers ; clouda 

Rise curling fast beneath me, iu/iite and sulplniry, 

Like foam from the roused ocean of deep hell." 

I will give two further specimens — "Arrived at the Grindel- 
wald ; rode to the higher glacier — like di frozen hurricane." ***** 
" Passed whole woods of withered pines, all withered ; trunks 
stripped and barkless, branchless, lifeless; done by a single winter." 



318 ON POETICAL COMPOSITION. 

" O'er the savage sea, 
The glassy ocean of the mountain ice, 
We skim its rugged breakers, whicli put on 
Tlie aspect of a tumbling tempest^ foam 
Frozen in a moment." Manfred. 

" Like blasted pines. 
Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless." 

Ibid. 

Dr. Johnson, a poet very different indeed from Byron, occa- 
sionally made use of prose notes in the preparation of his verses. 
The following rough hint or memorandum was used in his Irene. 

" Mahomet (to Irene). I have tried thee, and joy to find that thou 
deservest to be loved by Mahomet, — with a mind great as his own. Sure 
thou art an error of nature, and an exception to the rest of thy sex, and art 
immortal ; for sentiments like thine were never to sink into nothing. I 
thought all the tlioughts of the fair had been to select the graces of the day, 
disclose the colours of the flaunting (flowing) robe, tune the voice and roll 
the eye, place the gem, choose the dress, and add new roses to the fading 
cheek, but — sparkling." 

This passage is thus transformed into metre in the tragedy : 

"Illustrious maid, new wonders fix me thine; 
Thy soul completes the triumph of thy face; 
I thought, forgive my fair, the noblest aim, 
The strongest effort of a female soul 
Was but to choose the graces of the day, 
To tune the tongue, to teach the eyes to roll. 
Dispose the colours of the flowing robe. 
And add new roses to the fading cheek." 

It is said that Pope's Essay on Criticism was first written out in 
prose by his own hand, and that the Essay on Man was versified 
after the original prose sketch, furnished to the poet by his " guide, 
philosopher, and friend," Lord Bolingbroke. A similar practice 
is recommended by Vida in his Art of Poetry ; and Warton tells 
us, that when Racine had fixed on a subject for a play, he wrote 
down in plain prose, not only the subject of each of the five acts, 
but of every speech. When he had done this to his satisfaction. 



ON POETICAL COMPOSITION. 319 

he used to say, " My tragedy is finished." Moore observes that 
it was much the same case with Sheridan, who, whenever he un- 
dertook any subject in verse, used to write down his thoughts 
first in a sort of poetical prose, with here and there a rhyme or 
metrical line as they might occur, and afterwards reduce, with 
much labour, " this anomalous compound" to regular poetry. A 
practice of this nature, however, should not be too generally adopt- 
ed in poetical composition. It may be very advisable in some 
particular kinds of poetry, such as the didactic, and the descriptive ; 
but in those compositions which require quick bursts of passion, or 
" thoughts that breathe, and words that burn," there is something 
uncongenial and chilling in so mechanical an operation, and in the 
very nature of mere prose itself. The music of verse, the beauty 
of those expressions usually connected with poetical associations, 
and the elevation or abstraction of mind which is required in the 
production of poetry with all its proper adjuncts, excite the ima- 
gination and preserve it in the requisite state of activity and fervour. 
The mere difficulties of versification, are by no means so great as 
is generally supposed, when the poet is in a favorable mood. Pope 
has confessed that he often found one couplet suggest another. 
We have also the authority of Milton, for saying, that there are 
certain " thoughts that voluntarily move harmonious numbers." 
In descriptive poetry, however, especially, where minute and quick- 
ly changing appearances are to be preserved, and the memory is 
apt to be unfaithful, the practice of taking prose notes from the 
book of nature is, perhaps, both justifiable and judicious. It is 
analogous to the practice of a sister art. Studies from Nature are 
thought no deduction from a painter's supposed power of imagina- 
tion or facility of execution. 



[ 320 ] 



STANZAS. 

I. 

Oh ! deem not that ray heart is cold. 

Though 'mid the social throng 
I silent sit, as if controlled 

By some deep sense of wrong ; 
It is not that the voice of mirth 

Sounds harshly in mine ear. 
Nor that ray soul denies the worth 

Of Friendship's smile sincere : — 

II. 

But oft upon my sunniest hour 

A fitful sadness falls, 
And shades prophetic round me lour, 

'Till every scene appals. 
I could not tell thee whence or why 

Comes this o'erwhelming change. 
That makes what else might charm mine eye 

Seem desolate and strange. 

III. 

As sometimes o'er the brightest day 

The sudden shadows sail. 
So dreams of darkness and dismay 

O'er Life's best hopes prevail. 
I see such mystic visions now. 

And tremble at ray fears, — 
Oh ! then, forgive my clouded brow. 

My silence and my tears ! 



[ 321 ] 



ON FRIENDSHIP. 



" Of all the heavenly gifts, that mortal men commend, 

What trusty treasure in the world can countervail a friend ?" 

^"icholas Grimoald*. 
" In the mornini;, after the priest had given him the last sacraments, he said — 
'there is notliing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship; and indeed 
friendship itself is only a part of virtue.' " 

Spences Anecdotex of Pirpe. 
" Oh ! what a rare thing is a friend ! How true is that old saying ; that the use 
of a friend is more pleasing and necessary than the elements of fire and 
water." 

Montaigne. 
" The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, 
Grapple them to tliy soul with hooks of steel." 

Sliakspcare. 

Most men flatter themselves that they are not only capable of 
friendship, but that they have many friends. To a superficial ob- 
server, human life appears to abound in friendships ; but it pre- 
sents a very different aspect to those who can penetrate beneath 
the surface. " Friendship is so rare," observes Sir Philip Sidney, 
" that it is almost doubtful, whether it is a thing indeed, or a 
mere word." Poets and moralists have concurred in eulogising 
its advantages, and lamenting its uncertainty. A familiar anec- 
dote on the subject has been versified by Cowper : 

" Horatio's servant once, with bow and cringe 
Swinging the parlour door upon its hinge, 
Dreading a negative, and over-awed 
Lest he should trespass, begged to go abroad. 
Go fellow ! wliitlier? — turning short about — 
Nay. Stay at home — you're always going out. 



* An old Englisii Poet— the second writer of blank-verse after Surrey. lie 
Iflourished in the early part of the IGtii century. 

2 T 



322 ON FUIKXDRHIP. 

Tis but a step, sir, just at tlie street's end. 
For what ? — An please your sir, to see a friend. 
A friend ! Horatio cried, and seemed to start — 
Yea, marry shall thou, and with all my heart. 
And fetch my cloak ; for, though the night be raw, 
I'll see him too — the first I ever saw .'" 

" It is with friends as with ghosts," says Rochefoiicault ; 
" things that every body talks of, and scarcely any hath seen." 

But, however rare may be real friendship, men are so little 
formed to live alone, that when they cannot grasp its substance, 
they love to cheat themselves with its shadow. They who have the 
fewest friends have often the most acquaintances. The latter are 
a kind of proxies for the former, and usually bear the same name, 
though they are really of a very different character. Perhaps faith in 
some matters is less involuntary than philosophers have supposed ; 
as nothing seems more common than for men to believe according 
to their wishes, and to reject what is opposed to their vanity or 
their interest. Thus we frequently find a person of shrewdness 
and good sense congratulating himself on a long list of supposed 
friends, who in reality, are heartless and selfish beings, whose 
characters are as clear as daylight to aU the rest of the world. 
Men protect themselves from the fear of infidelity in friendship, 
and the horror of discovering that they are alone in the world, 
by a voluntary blindness. The gi'eatest optimist in friendship is 
indisposed to put the truth and constancy of his friends to a very 
severe trial. He dreads to be undeceived. It is generally consi- 
dered a very dangerous thing to borrow money from a friend, or 
to rival him in love or fame. That which is commonly called 
friendship would not stand the test. Goldsmith's story of 
Alcander and Septimius, in which one friend resigns the hand of 
his mistress to the other, with such a magnanimous self-sacrifice, 
is a pretty romance, but has no counterpart in common life. 

Mr. Landor in his " Imaginary Conversations" makes Cicero 
thus express himself — "Could 1 begin my existence again, and 



ox FRIKNDSHU'. 323 

what is equally impossible, could I see before me all I have seen, 
I would have few acquaintances, fewer friendships, no familiarities. 
This rubbish, for such it generally is, coUectinjj at the base of an 
elevated mind, lessens its height and impairs its character." 
There is no doubt that the being linked by the mere forms and 
courtesies of society to a very extensive circle, must be injurious 
alike to a man's ease, purity, and independence. He has too 
many different opinions to study, and too many tastes to satisfy, 
to be able to indulge his own particular impulses. Instead of 
standing out boldly and prominently as an individual, he becomes 
only an insignificant part of the great mass, and is whirled away 
like a mere straw, amidst the general refuse that soils the stream 
of life. A man of eminent intellectual and moral worth cannot 
long mingle harmoniously with the crowd without a sacrifice of 
character. The delicate bloom of virtue is soon rubbed off by a 
close contact with the world, and the finest thoughts and specula- 
tions are exchanged for more vulgar and sordid interests. Unless 
a man lowers himself to the level of those about him bv unworthy 
compliances, he is regarded with a jealous eye. His superiority 
is a tacit censure on the rest of the world. Thev call his inte- 
grity churlishness, and his genius eccentricity. " Great wit," 
especially of that kind which renders a man unfit to mingle with 
the throng, is always held to be very " nearly allied to mad- 
ness." He who mixes with the world, and yet endeavours to 
breast the stream of popular opinion, is considered more odd than 
wise. Thus a man who has many friends has generally very few 
worth having, nor does he deserve to have better ones ; for it is 
only by a dishonorable flexibility in his own character that he can 
surreund himself with a host of intimates, all differing more or 
less from himself, and from each other. The friendship that is 
of any value consists in a close communion of mind, as well as 
heart, and such is the selfishness of most men, the inequahty of 
human capacities, and the endless variety of dispositions, that 
2 T 2 



324 ON' FRIENDSIIir. 

nothing is so rare as the union of congenial spirits. A man may 
pass through a long life without meeting with one companion, 
into whose breast he could safely pour the secrets of his soul, or 
from whom he might expect a perfect and disinterested sym- 
pathy. Montaigne has some excellent observations on the rarity 
of friendship, and relates the anecdote of a young soldier, who, 
when asked by Cyrus, what he would take for a horse with which 
he had just won the prize at a race, and whether he would 
exchange him for a kingdom, replied, " No, truly, sir ; but I 
would freely part with him to gain a friend, could I find a man 
worthy of such a relation." When Socrates was asked why he 
had built so small a house — " Small as it is," he replied, " I wish 
I had friends enough to fill it." 

Rochefoucault, who studied human nature closelv, observed, 
that in the misfortunes of our best friends we always find some- 
thing that does not displease us. Swift has confirmed the truth 
of this maxim, and has illustrated it by his verses on his own 
death, in which he anticipates the observations of his surviving 
friends with great sagacity and a caustic humour. To those who 
neither analyze their own feelings, nor dive into the hearts of 
others, this view of human nature may seem as untrue as it is 
shocking. They perceive not with what eager and indecent haste 
unhappy intelligence is communicated by friends, and how trans- 
parent is the veil of sadness that is worn on such occasions. A 
keen eye may often detect an ill-suppressed smile beneath it, like 
the sunlight behind an April cloud. I have seen instances in 
which it has broken out into actual laughter. People are some- 
times heard to express a sense of horror at their own indifference 
to the afilictions of their friends, and half-conscious of a strange 
internal pleasure, are unable to account for it. It is truly said, 
that the most difiicult of aU knowledge is the knowledge of our 
own hearts. This secret satisfaction arising from the distresses 
of others is owing to the sense of superior fortune, increased 



ON" FRIENDSHIP. 325 

by contrast, and not to any natural malignity of disposition, as 
might be superficially imagined. All happiness is comparative, 
and we measure our own lot by that of others. This view of 
the subject in some degree blunts the edge of Rochefoucault's 
remark, which would otherwise seem a terrible sarcasm against 
human nature. To enable us to overcome the disposition to con- 
gratulate ourselves on our own good fortune at the expense of 
others, our friendship must be strong indeed. Those who think 
they have many friends of such truth and fervour indulge in a 
very gross delusion. 

A gentleman once gave me a few odd pages, which he got by 
mere accident, of a work entitled " The Journal of a Self -Observer," 
being the diary of the inmost thoughts and feelings of the cele- 
brated Lavater, a keen student of his own heart and the hearts 
of others. The Journal was not originally intended for publi- 
cation. " Lest I should deceive myself," says the author, " I 
will make a firm resolution never to show these remarks to 
any person whatever." And he undertakes to put down every 
thing as truly and as carefully as if he had to read the Journal to 
his God. The following passage may be given as a specimen of 
his confessions (more genuine than those of Rousseau), and as a 
curious evidence of his severe and searching self-study. The 
book would have delighted Rochefoucault. 

" Sumht)/, January the seventh. — When I awoke, a messenger was 

wailing for me, delivering a letter fi-om my friend ****, at II , who 

entreated me to pay him a visit, if possible, for he was very ill. 

" I was frightened, and yet this intelligence had soinet/iing pleasing in 
it, though, God knows ! I love my friend sincerely ; his death would 
grieve me much. It is not the first time that ///// Jright uccasioned by 
ufflicling intelligence, seemed to be mixed with secret joy. 1 recollect to 
have felt once on a sudden alarm of tire, something so very pleasing, that, 
on cool reflection, makes me shudder. Was tiiis sensation the effect of the 
novelty, and the suddenness of the alarm, or of tiie presentiment of the 
concern which those with whom I should have an opportunity of conversing 
on that incident would shoiv, and which is always somewhat faltering to the 



326 ON IKIKNDSIIIP. 

nunntor? Or was it the effect of the confused idea of the changes which 
interrupted the sameness of my thouglits or occupations? Or was it, 
which is most likely, the consequence of the joi/ful sensation of being 
exempted from the misfoi'tiuie w/iic/i be/alls or titreutens ot/ierx? 

" I should like to know what passes in the minds of other people, and 
particularly of those who have an humane, feelina; heart, when they are 
surprised by important, and, at the same time, afflicting intelligence. 
However, 1 apprehend that most of them either do not pay proper atten- 
tion to situations of that kind, or are anxious to hide their feelings from 
others, and, perhaps from themselves. Yet, I think, one ought to observe 
one's self with the utmost care in such cases ; and, in order to recollect 
afterwards, to one's own benefit, the most secret emotions of the mind, one 
ought to commit them faithfully to writing in the first tranquil moment. 

" I communicated the letter to my wife, made preparation for my 
journey, settled in haste some business, gave some orders, and then step- 
ped into the carriage. 

" Consternation, anxiety, uneasiness, rind a secret satisfaction, on ac- 
count oj' the joy my speedy arrival would afford my friend, but not only on 
account of that joy, but also of the praise which I expected hiinself and his 
family would give me — and shame on account of that satisfaction, succeed- 
ed each other, alternately, in the first quarter of an hour*. 

" I began to pray : ' O ! my God ! how irregular and impure are my 
thoughts ! When will my heart be in such a condition that I shall be able 
to look upon myself without blushing ! — Merciful God ! guide my thoughts 
and sensations, particularly at present.' '' 

Real friendship is almost as exclusive as love, and cannot be 
diffused over a large circle. I can hardly call that man my friend 
who cares as much for a hundred other people as he does for me. 
I am not satisfied with a hundredth share of his heart. He 
might as well pretend to love as many mistresses. He cannot 
have an equally deep feeling for them all. In the event of a 
contrariety of interests amongst them, how is he to act ? Every 
body's friend is no one's. Jealousy is almost as much aUied to 
friendship as to love, and it is more natural to see friends in pairs 
than in triads or in scores. The close communion of a great 
number of people is sociality, but not friendship. 



These are genuine confessions, and show a profound self-knowledge. 



ON FRIENDSHIP. 3"27 

Some people talk of friendship as if it were as common a thing 
as the sexual affection, which is by no means the case. All men 
at some period of their lives have been fired by the latter passion, 
but comparatively very few of any age have felt the force of 
genuine friendship. Love is a compound feeling, and is fed with 
the grossest food ; but friendship is a passion which must exist 
entirely on a moral or intellectual diet. Though love is more 
fiery and ardent, it is also more fickle and uncertain. It is sub- 
ject, as are all physical passions, to a fatal satiety. It is destroyed 
by fruition. But the appetite of friendship grows with what it 
feeds on. Love is like a hunter who cares not for the game when 
once caught, which he may have pursued with the most intense 
and breathless eagerness. Love is strongest in pursuit, friendship 
in possession. 

The ancient philosophers were enthusiastic advocates of friend- 
ship, and amongst the Greeks it was made a point of religion 
and legislation. But Christianity has been thought by some to 
nullify this virtue. Soame Jenyns, in his " View of the Internal 
Evidence of the Christian Religion," maintains, that it is not con- 
sistent with that universal benevolence which is inculcated by the 
Scriptures*. Dr. Johnson seems to lean to the same opinion, 
and Shaftesbury in his " Characteristics" insists that private 
friendship is a virtue purely voluntary in a Christian. He sup- 
ports his argument with an extract from Bishop Taylor, who 
observes that the word friendship, in the sense commonly under- 
stood by it, is not so much as mentioned in the New Testamentf. 

* " It is totally incompatible," be observes, " with the genius and spirit of 
the Gospel." JMelmoth in his remarks on Cicero's Lcelias warmly combats this 
notion. 

t But Bishop Heber (who by the way, wrote a Life of Bishop Taylor) 
made the following remark in a letter to Mr. Hornby : " ^V'hatever may be our 
prospects of intercourse iiere, I am not one of those who apprehend that a well- 
grounded erteem even for earthly beings, will p- rish with the present world ; and 
I trust I am not presumptuous in cherishing the hope, that many of the friend- 
ships begun here, may be among the sources of our everlasting happiness." 



328 ON FRIENDSIIIH, 

Boswell records the following conversation on this subject be- 
tween Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Knowles (a Quaker lady), 

Johnson : " All friendship is preferring the interest of a friend to the 
neglect or perliaps against the interest of others ; so that an old Greek 
said, ' he that has Jriends has no friend.' Now Christianity recommends 
universal benevolence, to consider all men as our brethren ; which is con- 
trary to the virtue of friendship, as described by the ancient philosophers. 
Surely, madam, your sect must approve of this ; for you call all men 
friends." Mrs. Knowles: " We are commanded to do good to all men, 
but especially to them that are of the household of faith !" Johnson: 
" Well, nuidain, the houseliold of faith is wide enough." Mrs. Knowles: 
" But, Doctor, our Saviour had twelve Apostles, yet there was one whom 
beloved. John was called the disciple whom Jesus loved!" Johnson: 
(with eyes sparkling benignantly,) " Very well, indeed, madam. You 
liave said very well." Boswell : " A fine application. Pray sir, had you 
ever thought of it?" Johnson: " I had not, sir." 

But though there is certainly a spirit of exclusiveness in friend- 
ship itself, it does not follow that it is necessarily opposed to that 
universal philanthropy which is so incessantly and so beautifully 
recommended by the Christian religion. To entertain exactly 
the same esteem and love for all men is utterly impossible, because 
we esteem and love individuals for qualities with which all men 
are not equally endowed. There are also natural instincts which 
interfere with this equaUty of regard. Every mother must prefer 
the interest of her own offspring to that of others. All that can 
be expected from us is, the cultivation of a spirit of charity and 
good-will towards the whole human race ; and they who are 
capable of an intense and passionate friendship cannot be cruel or 
cold-hearted towards any portion of their fellow-creatures. In 
fact, in the composition of a genuine friendship there are many 
of the highest and most generous virtues. A merely selfish man 
cannot be a friend, neither can an evil-minded or a foolish one. 
Voltaire defines friendship " a tacit contract between two sensible 
and virtuous persons." " The wicked," he says, " have only 
accomplices ; the voluptuous, companions ; the interested, asso- 



ON FRIENDSHIP. 329 

ciates ; idle men, connexions ; and princes, courtiers. Cethegus," 
he adds, " was the accomplice of Cataline, and Maecenas, the 
courtier of Octavius ; but Cicero was the friend of Atticus." 

There are many delightful examples of Uterary friendship. 
Perhaps one reason of the fervour of friendship between men of 
letters is their facility of mental intercourse. They are in the 
habit of clothing their most subtle thoughts and associa- 
tions in a transparent diction. The communion of such men 
is perfect, and the intense delight with which they compare 
minds, and kindle at the social collision of their most secret con- 
ceptions, is inconceivable by ordinary persons. Their mental 
characters are more firmly fixed, and their opinions are not liable 
to be affected by the breath of frivolous scandal or by slight 
external occurrences. They live as it were in a world of their own, 
in which there are fewer mutabilities than in the material world 
with which other men are connected. They do not care for the 
idle gossip of society. Their conversation is about departed 
spirits, and is fuU of glorious abstractions. They are hand and 
glove with Milton and Shakspeare, with Bacon and with New- 
ton, while they have not even a bowing acquaintance with their 
next-door neighbour. How beautiful an instance of literary 
friendship is that of Beaumont and Fletcher, whose labours were 
so mingled, that no critic has been able to separate them ! Their 
union is eternal ! It is scarcely necessary to aUude to the friend- 
ship of Virgil and Horace, Petrarch and Boccacio, Chaucer and 
Gower, Surrey and Wyatt, Milton and Marvel, Cowley and Harvey, 
Isaac Walton and Charles Cotton, Lloyd and ChurchUl, Pope and 
Swift, and Byron and Moore. Of these interesting literary friend- 
ships almost every one must have read. How touchingly has Gray 
commemorated his affection for West, in the following Sonnet. 

" In vain to me the smiling morning shines, 

And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire ; 
The birds in vain their amorous descant join, 
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire. 

2 u 



330 ON FRIENDSHIP. 

These ears, alas, for other notes repine ; 

A different object do these eyes require; 
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine ; 

And in my breast the imperfect joys expire. 
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer, 

And new-bora pleasure brings to happier men ; 
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear ; 

To warm their little loves the birds complain, 
I fruitless mourn for him that cannot hear, 

And weep the more because I weep in vain/' 



The friendship of Montaigne and Stephen de Boetius was such 
as is rarely known in ordinary hfe, — " a friendship so entire, and 
so perfect, that certainly the like is hardly to be found in story." 
Nothing can exceed the passionate and disinterested tenderness 
with which they regarded each other. After the death of Boetius, 
of which his friend has given us so pathetic a relation, life seemed 
" one dark tedious night" to the survivor. " From the day that 
I lost him," says Montaigne, " I have only languished in life, and 
the very pleasures that present themselves to me, instead of com- 
forting me, double my affliction for the loss of hira. We were 
half-sharers in every thing ; and methinks, by outliving him, I 
defraud him of his share." This approaches nearly to Dryden's 
somewhat extravagant description of friendship in his " All for 
Love." 



" I was his soul : he lived not but in me ; 
We were so closed within each other's breast. 
The rivets were not found that joined us first ; 
That does not reach us yet; we were so mixed, 
As meeting streams, both to ourselves were lost : 
We were one mass : we could not give nor take. 

But from the same ; for he was I, I he. 

***** 

If I have any joy when thou art absent, 
I grudge it to myself; methinks I rob 
Theeof thy part:' 



ON FRIENDSHIP. 331 

Young puts the loss of a friend in a still stronger light : 

" When friends part 
'Tis the survivor dies." 

It is this kind of social intercourse which is described by Seneca. 
" Friendship," says he, " lays all things common, and nothing 
can be good to the one that is ill to the other. I do not speak of 
such a community as to destroy one another's propriety ; but as 
the father and mother have two childern, not one a piece, but 
each of them tw^o." When we consider what are the real claims of 
friendship, and look around us in the world in search of a true 
friend, we may well despair of success. He who has one such 
treasure may think himself supremely fortunate. Ordinary con- 
nections in society are merely supported by an interchange of 
interests, which is interrupted at the first inequality. This com- 
merce of benefits is attended with as much selfishness and mean 
arithmetic on both sides as the negociations of the lowest traders. 
It resolves itself into the simple question of profit and loss. The 
general craving for society and intolerance of solitude is not so 
much traceable to a spirit of sociality as to an uneasy vacancy of 
mind, and the absence of internal and independent sources of 
amusement. Most men are anxious to escape from their own 
thoughts, and dread the dulness of a self-conversation. They 
find their own company insupportable, and are sometimes com- 
pelled to fly for relief even to those whom they despise. ThuS; 
" kings," as Burke says, " are fond of low company," because in 
such society they can best forget their own wearisome identity, 
and throw off that uneasy weight of satiety and care which is 
peculiar to their isolated condition. The friendship which seems 
so abundant in general society is a sad illusion, and nothing can 
be more contradictory and absurd than the manner in which the 
mass of people speak, in their absence, of those whom they call 
their friends. They should ask themselves how far they would be 
ready to sacrifice their own immediate interest for the benefit of 
2 u 2 



332 ON FRIENDSHIP. 

these dear associates. If the life of one of them depended on 
an expensive voyage that was beyond his means, would they 
pay the cost ? If he were to die, would it deprive them of 
any portion of their usual appetite or sleep ? " Not a jot !" Dr. 
Johnson, who was at least as capable of the virtue of friendship 
as the generality of men, has very candidly confessed the small 
extent of his own sympathy in the fate of others. If he had not 
the requisite fervour and disinterestedness of genuine friendship, 
he was at all events no hypocrite, and was equally wiUing to read 
his own heart, and to lay it open to the gaze of others. When he 
was asked, what his feelings would be if one of his friends were 
apprehended for an offence for which he might be hanged : he 
replied, " I shoidd do what I could to bail him, and give him any 
other assistance ; but if he were once fairly hanged I should not 
suffer." " Would you eat your dinner that day, sir ?" inquired 
Boswell. " Yes, sir; and eat it as if he were eating with me. 
Why, there's Baretti, who is to be tried for his life to-morrow ; 
friends have risen up for him on all sides ; yet if he should be 
hanged, none of them will eat a slice of plum-pudding the less. 
Sir, that sympathetic feeling goes a very little way in depressing 
the mind." This seems a disheartening account of human 
nature ; but I am afraid it is the true one. Those who have more 
sympathy for their fellows are perhaps but rare exceptions to the 
general character of mankind. Dr. Johnson, cursed as he was 
with a hypochondriacal temperament, had a deep sense of the 
necessity of friendship. After the loss of many friends, whose 
praise he valued, he makes a touching allusion to his desolate con- 
dition, in the preface to his Dictionary. " I may surely," says he, 
" be contented without the praise of perfection, which if I could 
obtain in this gloom of solitude, what would it avail me .''" But 
the death of friends made little impression upon him when he had 
the means of supplying their place with other associates. He used 
to talk of the necessity of repairing his friendships with new 



ON FRIENDSHIP. 333 

acquaintances, a cold and mechanical notion, which shows how 
little he understood of the depth, and holiness, and continuity of 
a true affection*. His friendship was selfish and one-sided. He 
was merely his own friend. The loss of a friend who deserves 
the name is utterly irreparable. It is a terrible laceration of the 
heait which never heals. 

" Tliy last sigh 
Dissolved the charm ; the disenchanted earth 
Lost all her lustre !" 

There is nothing which throws so dark a horror over death as 
the parting with a dear friend ; and the dreadful thought that we 
may never meet again, even in a future state, is almost insupport- 
able. The great and awful change which must take place in our 
nature may annihilate the materials of friendship. 



• It must be remembered, however, that even Cicero, in his Essay on 
Friendship, recommends us to repair the loss of old friends by new acquisitions. 
And Shenstone acknowledges that it was a maxim with him that whenever he 
lost a person's friendship to engage a fresh friend in his place. But it is not so 
easy, to engage a friend, as you would a servant, just as you require him. 
There is a pleasant stanza on this subject in Don Juan. 

" O Job ! you had two friends : one's quite enough, 

Especially when we are ill at ease ; 
They are but bad pilots when the weather's rough. 

Doctors less famous for their cures than fees. 
Let no man grumble when his friends fall off, 

As they will do like leaves at the first breeze : 
When your affairs come round, one way or t'other. 
Go to the Coffee House and take aoother.'' 

The Poet, however, adds in the succeeding stanza — 

" But this is not my maxim : had it been, 
Some heart-aches had been spared me." 

The thought of going to a Coffee House for a new friend was suggested to 
Lord Byron by a passage in Swift's or Walpole's letters, he did not remember 
which, where it is mentioned that someiiody regretting the loss of a friend was 
answered, " When I lose one, I go to the St. James's Coffee House, and take 
another.'' 



834 STANZAS. 

Tlie ancients carried more of this world into their idea of a 
future state than we do, and cheered their last hours with the 
hope of again meeting those they loved with much the same 
personal feeling as that with which they parted. Modem phi- 
losophy is on this point perhaps more refined ; but while it ren- 
ders our future prospect less palpable, it is also less congenial 
to human associations. 



STANZAS TO 



(on the death of his wife, a few months after marriage.) 

I. 

A gloom hath gathered round thee now that will not pass away, 
Like gray mist from the mountain's peak, or storms from April's 

day; 
There is a shade upon thy brow, a tempest in thy soul. 
No ray of earthly hope can cheer, no mortal voice control. 

II. 

For she, the charm, the life of life, hath vanished from the scene. 
And thou art left to mourn in vain how brief her sway hath been ; — 
Alas ! too, like a meteor fair from some celestial clime, 
That bright but transient vision touched the dusky wings of Time ! 

III. 
Thy path is lone and desolate, and grief shall haunt thy breast. 
Yet sometimes dreams of happier realms where wear}' pilgrims rest. 
May flash upon thine upward gaze, and bid thy spirit soar 
Where friends and lovers severed long, shall meet to part no more ! 



[ 335 ] 



LINES WRITTEN IN A LADY'S ALBUM. 



Lady — though no poetic fire 

Breathe in my verse — no Muse inspire 

My soul with that resplendent lore 

That glitters in the page of Moore — 

With Wordsworth's sentiment profound — 

Or Byron's storm of thought and sound — 

Or classic Campbell's patriot glow — 

Or Scott's free strain, whose numbers flow 

As wildly as the wandering riUs 

'Mid Scotia's proud romantic hills — 

The state, the tenderness, and power 

Of SouTHEY in his happier hour — 

The gentle truth, and visions bold. 

Of him* the " Tale of Love" that told— 

Or Shelley's wilderness of dreams. 

His thunder-clouds, and meteor-gleams ; — 

Though powers like these alone are given 

To spirits touched with light from heaven, 

Who seem upon this earth to wave 

Celestial wands — and thousands crave 

A spark of their immortal flame 

To cheer them on the path of fame. 

Yet crave in vain — and 'mid the throng 

E'en I have dared an idle song, — 

Though barren rhymes my labours raise. 

Poor shrubs on which the sun of praise 

* Coleridge. 



336 LINES WRITTEN IN A LADy's ALBUM. 

But seldom beams, — I do not fear 
Fair Lady ! thine indulgent ear ; 
For promptly at thy soft command — 
And who could check his heart or hand 
At beauty's call ? — I've framed a lay 
Whose sound perchance some future day 
May bid thee hail with kind regard 
The memory of thy friend and bard. 

But turning to my task and theme. 
What rays of glory round me stream ! 
The dazzling gems these leaves enclose — 
The various spells that genius throws 
On every page — the flowerets rare 
Transplanted in this bright parterre — 
Strike dumb the faint descriptive Muse, 
As sun-beams mock the painter's hues ; — 
Nor need these simple verses tell 
The hand of Taste hath chosen well. 



P.&B